As images and news of the fire spread, many activists are demanding accountability from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Here’s why: When Bolsonaro was running for president, he made campaign promises to restore the economy by exploring the Amazon’s economic potential. Now, environmental organizations say he has encouraged ranchers, farmers and loggers to exploit and burn the rainforest like never before with a sense of impunity.
(Remember: Environmental organizations and researchers say these wildfires were set by cattle ranchers and loggers who wanted to clear and utilize the land.)
The pro-business Bolsonaro has hamstrung Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency with budget cuts amounting to $23 million — official data sent to CNN by Observatorio do Clima shows the enforcement agency’s operations have gone down since Bolsonaro was sworn in.
What Bolsonaro is saying: Bolsonaro has dismissed accusations of responsibility for the fires. On Wednesday, he speculated that the Amazon fires could have been caused by nonprofit organizations who are suffering from lack of funding, to “generate negative attention against me and against the Brazilian government.”