Friday 23 August 2019 1:06 pm

Dublin vows to block EU-South American trade deal as the Amazon burns

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has promised to vote against a trade deal between the EU and South American countries unless Brazil moves to protect its rainforest.

The PM said he was worried about the record levels of destruction in the Amazon, amid fires that are ripping through the forest. He said Ireland will closely follow Brazil’s record on the Amazon during the two years until the deal with the South American Mercosur bloc is ratified.

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“There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments,” he said.

His statements will heap the pressure on Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who has sparked international outrage by not doing enough to put out the fires.

The firebrand President, whose past statements include racist and homophobic attacks, said yesterday that the rest of the world should stay out of Brazil’s business.

“These countries that send money here, they don’t send it out of charity. … They send it with the aim of interfering with our sovereignty,” Bolsanaro said.

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Wildfires surged 83 per cent so far this year, with environmental groups pointing the finger of blame at farmers burning trees to clear land for pasture.

The NGOs say that farmers have been emboldened by Bolsonaro’s rhetoric, but the President meanwhile accused the NGOs of setting the fires. He presented absolutely no evidence for this claim.