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Latin America

G-7 Leaders Near Deal To Help Amazon Nations Fight Rainforest Blazes, Macron Says

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Moacir Cordeiro, who works in a local cattle farm, looks on after digging grooves with a tractor in an attempt to stave off fires in the Alvorada da Amazonia region in Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, on Sunday.
Leo Correa, AP

Moacir Cordeiro, who works in a local cattle farm, looks on after digging grooves with a tractor in an attempt to stave off fires in the Alvorada da Amazonia region in Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, on Sunday.

Leaders who attended the G-7 summit are close to an agreement to provide technical and financial help to combat massive fires that have swept through the Amazon rainforest, according to French President Emmanuel Macron.

Speaking on Sunday, Macron said the leaders "all agreed on helping those countries which have been hit by the fires as fast as possible."

"Our teams are making contact with all the Amazon countries so we can finalize some very concrete commitments involving technical resources and funding," Macron said.

Macron had tweeted an urgent message on Friday as the summit was just about to get underway, calling on fellow leaders to make the fires a priority of their meeting.

President Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson both offered assistance to fight the fires.

Macron's call for action was echoed on Sunday by Pope Francis who warned "that forest lung is vital for our planet" and prayed that "with the commitment of all ... [the fires] might be contained as soon as possible."

Although Brazil accounts for about 60 percent of the Amazon and has been the focus of international attention, the planet's largest rainforest extends to eight other countries — Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

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Brazil's far-right populist President Jair Bolsonaro, who has promised to open the Amazon to development, initially dismissed the impact of the fires and then suggested that they might have been set by non-governmental organizations bent on discrediting him.

Many of the fires are thought to have been set by farmers, loggers and ranchers trying to clear land, according to officials, who say Bolsonaro's attitude about the rainforest may have caused some of them to believe the government was giving a green light to such activity.

After European leaders threatened to end a trade deal with South American countries and thousands showed up for protests across Brazil, Bolsonaro's government acted on Friday, ordering 44,000 soldiers to help fight the fires. On Sunday, Brazil deployed two C-130s to aid the effort by dropping water to douse the flames.

Brazil's efforts to control the fires appear to be concentrated in the Amazonian state of Rondonia, which borders Bolivia.

Many Brazilians marched in protest on Sunday against the government's perceived inaction, coming out by the thousands in Rio de Janeiro and other cities, according to The Associated Press.

There were also anti-G-7 protests over the weekend decrying the lack of action on climate change that were staged near the southwest French coastal city of Biarritz, where the summit was held.

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