Thursday 19 September 2019

France's first lady Brigitte Macron hits back at Bolsonaro after 'insulting Facebook comment'

Day in sun: Brigitte Macron and French TV host Stéphane Bern open the Agincourt Historic Centre. Photo: Getty
Day in sun: Brigitte Macron and French TV host Stéphane Bern open the Agincourt Historic Centre. Photo: Getty

David Chazan

Brigitte Macron, France's first lady, hit back last night at mockery of her age and appearance by Jair Bolsonaro amid a war of words between the Brazilian president and her husband that has left €20m in emergency funding for the Amazon fires in limbo.

Her comments came as Mr Bolsonaro, accused by critics of allowing tens of thousands of fires to rage unchecked in the Amazon rainforest, announced a two-month ban on fires deliberately started by farmers.

Critics have accused the leader of allowing farmers to start fires in order to clear forest for crops or grazing, labelling him "Captain Chainsaw".

Mrs Macron (65) implied the 64-year-old president was out of tune with contemporary attitudes to women and then thanked the thousands of Brazilians who had offered apologies on social media for their president's approval of a post deriding her for being nearly 25 years older than Emmanuel Macron, her husband.

The post implied Michelle Bolsonaro, the 37-year-old wife of Mr Bolsonaro (64) was better looking than the French first lady.

Mrs Macron said: "Times are changing. There are those who are on the train of change, women are there with you, like you, you've almost all understood, gentlemen. Not everyone, some are still on the platform and I'm sure they will soon get on the train."

Her comments won sustained applause as she inaugurated a newly refurbished museum devoted to the Battle of Agincourt at a ceremony with Edward Llewellyn, the British ambassador, at the site of the 1415 English victory in northern France.

The diplomatic clash between the French and Brazilian presidents came as Mr Macron tried to lead international efforts to help Brazil put out the fires, which he sees as a global problem because the world's largest rainforest produces 20pc of its oxygen.

Mr Bolsonaro rejected €20m in aid from the G7 announced at a summit hosted by Mr Macron in the coastal resort of Biarritz at the weekend. But he has accepted a separate €11m offer of assistance from the UK.

State governors and agribusiness leaders from the Amazon have implored Mr Bolsonaro to accept financial aid from the G7, fearing continued tensions could harm Brazil's exports.

Outlawed

Mr Bolsonaro has now outlawed all uses of fire in the region except for farming in indigenous communities, but he stressed the ban was only temporary. "The people there set these fires, it's a tradition," he said.

Data from Brazil's Institute of Space Research has shown the increase in fires this year is linked to a rise in deforestation, with illegal land grabbers clearing areas of virgin forest in order to sell to agribusiness firms.

Under domestic and international pressure, the government is expected to launch a series of environment related measures next week including curbs on deforestation and gold panning.

Local media warned of a new Amazon gold rush stemming from relaxed oversight and poverty.

On Wednesday, Donald Trump lent his support to Mr Bolsonaro.

Irish Independent

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