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Bolsonaro slams 'unjustified' attacks over Amazon deforestation

Published November 22,2020

Brazil's outspoken President Jair Bolsonaro hit out at "demagogic" and "unjustified" attacks over growing deforestation in the Amazon during the virtual G20 summit Sunday, claiming critics were from "less competitive" countries.

The far-right leader has drawn international condemnation for presiding over a surge of deforestation and wildfires in the world's biggest rainforest.

"I present the facts, concrete data, not demagogic phrases which undermine public debate over a cause (my detractors) pretend to defend," he said during the summit.

Bolsonaro claimed that an "agricultural revolution" had allowed Brazil to use "just 8 percent of its territory" for farming and crops and 19 percent for livestock, preserving existing vegetation on two thirds of the land.

"It's with pride that I present these figures and reaffirm that we're always working to ensure a high level of protection and reject unjustified attacks by countries which are less competitive and less sustainable," he said.

Bolsonaro, who has slashed funding for environmental agencies and wants to open protected Amazon lands to industry, often accuses foreign critics of hypocrisy or coveting the region's natural resources.

He has publicly clashed over the issue with French President Emmanuel Macron and US President-elect Joe Biden, among others.

Fires continue to ravage swathes of Brazil's tropical rainforests, with at least 93,356 blazes reported in the Amazon between January and October, a 4.5 percent increase on the same period a year earlier.

Environmental destruction by Brazilian agribusiness firms is also threatening a long-sought trade deal between the European Union and the Mercosur bloc, of which Brazil is a member.