Brazil president still insists forest fire reports hyped up

Updated 30 October 2019

Brazil president still insists forest fire reports hyped up

  • Bolsonaro claims fake news, agendas targeting his country
  • Fires in Brazil’s rainforest were said to be at their peak in August

RIYADH: President Jair M. Bolsonaro is sticking to his guns, and his controversial comments surrounding the widely reported forest fires in his country, claiming they were blown out of proportion.

“At times, certain countries use an environmental agenda or human rights agenda, which is precisely what happened against Brazil,” he said during a discussion panel at the Future Investments Initiative (FII) in Riyadh.

The fires in Brazil’s rainforest were said to be at their peak in August, when the BBC reported 30,901 separate fires.

The same report from October said there were still many fires across parts of the Amazon, although fewer than before.

In September, National Geographic reported that the “unusually severe fires” were presenting a real risk to river life.

And in August, the Hindustan Times presented video footage from NASA showing satellite images of thick plumes of smoke rising from the forest below.

But despite the apparent evidence of the fires and the damage they were causing, Bolsonaro still says the reports were an agenda against his country and fake news.

“It’s a tropical rainforest. It can’t catch on fire,” he said during the panel session with  Lubna Al-Olayan, chairman of the Olayan Financing Company.

“Official data was monitored by satellite and managed. The armed forces immediately cleaned up the forests in order for the number of tourists to not be reduced,” he added. “We’re doing our homework and we’re opening our arms to all of you,” he told the audience.

Bolsonaro urged investors to “give Brazil a chance,” telling them: “We have a huge deal to offer all of you.”

He added: “As part of our ongoing reform efforts, we’ll be spending less than the revenue we’re collecting in taxes. That’s our main and most important guarantee.”

He said he wants his legacy to be a “much better Brazil,” and he wants to “reduce bureaucracy and establish a rational environment for investors.”

He added: “A speech from a head of state won’t convince investors, but facts and figures will. We’ve never had such a low interest rate — around 5.5 percent — and our inflation rate is lower than our target of around 3 percent.”

Bolsonaro met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. He said the crown prince had pledged to invest $10 billion in Brazil. “These funds will be used in Agra bay, off Rio de Janeiro state, for touristic uses,” Bolsonaro said.


Taliban say prisoner swap promised by Kabul fails to happen

Updated 12 min 1 sec ago

Taliban say prisoner swap promised by Kabul fails to happen

  • The three Taliban prisoners included Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of the Taliban’s deputy chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the fearsome Haqqani militant network
  • They were to be exchanged for American University of Afghanistan professors, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks

ISLAMABAD: Three Taliban prisoners who were to be freed in exchange for an American and an Australian national, both kidnapped in 2016, are still in custody in Bagram prison, north of the capital Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Friday.
The three Taliban prisoners did not show up at an exchange site that had been agreed upon with the US, though Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said they would be freed.
Mujahid had no explanation for the no-show.
The three Taliban prisoners included Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of the Taliban’s deputy chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the fearsome Haqqani militant network. They were to be exchanged for American University of Afghanistan professors, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks.
Mujahid said the professors are still in Taliban custody.
In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, Ghani said the “conditional release” was a very hard decision to make.
Prisoner releases were a key point during peace talks between the US and Taliban last year. US President Donald Trump abruptly ended the talks in September, following a spate of violent attacks in Kabul that killed more than a dozen people, including a US soldier.
The prisoner exchange was seen as a possible door to restarting the talks. US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has crisscrossed the region in recent weeks meeting with Washington’s NATO allies, as well as Russia, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
President Ghani has repeatedly demanded his government be included in talks with the Taliban, who have refused saying the Afghan government is an American puppet.
Ghani is now in the middle of a controversial contest for his job as president following Afghanistan’s Sept. 28 elections, which drew allegations of widespread misconduct and fraud.
Preliminary results were supposed to be released on Thursday, but have once again been postponed.
Ghani had hoped a big win in the presidential polls would solidify his political position, but the recount of ballots has been challenged by his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who shares power in Afghanistan’s coalition government.
That government was cobbled together after the 2014 presidential elections, which were so deeply overwhelmed by allegations of fraud that the United States stepped in to broker a power sharing agreement between Abdullah and Ghani.