Brazil’s Defence Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva on Tuesday said 63 people were arrested and issued fines amounting to $8.7 million after the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, AFP reported.

The rainforest is vital to the fight against climate change because of the vast amounts of carbon dioxide that it absorbs. International attention was drawn to the Amazon after an estimated 83% increase in forest fires compared to the same time period in 2018.

The announcement came after Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro told United Nations General Assembly in New York that he would “reaffirm the sovereignty” of the country after the surge in blazes sparked a global outcry.

Bolsonaro had authorised military operations in seven states after several days of criticism from the public and world leaders that his government was not doing anything to fight the fires. The operation was extended till October 24.

At a press conference, Silva said the military made 571 land and 250 air raids. He claimed the number of fires recorded in the rainforest was 17,095, well below the historical average for September of 33,426.

“What was coming, mainly from the outside, was that the Amazon was on fire,” Silva said. “We showed the reality, and I think it is far from a burning Amazon.”

Environmentalists have blamed Bolsonaro’s strong rhetoric favouring Amazon’s development for emboldening deforesters and those setting fires.

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Under Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil is deforesting huge parts of the Amazon. Can the UN stop him?

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