Bolsonaro calls surge in Amazon fires a 'lie'

These man-made fires in the Amazon were caught on video by Reuters video journalists as they were lit, the same day Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro blasted the surge in fires as quote "lies."

His comments come just over one year after he called devastating Amazonian wildfires last August the retaliatory work of non-governmental organizations after he cut their funding, without providing evidence.

Fires in Brazil's Amazon for the month of August hit a nine-year high in 2019 and this month so far looks even worse. More than 10,000 fires have been recorded in the first 10 days of August, up 17% from the same period a year ago, according to data from the country's national space research agency.

Experts say fires are not a natural phenomenon in the rainforest, but are usually man-made in order to clear land for pasture.

Reuters spoke with one of those farmers clearing brush for pasture, who wished to remain anonymous. He said it's not his intention to do harm, but it's a necessary step to make a living.

"We don't want fire to enter the part of the forest we have - because, how many lives are inside there? So, we don't want to destroy any lives. We're simply making a little clearing to be able to plant some fruit and some grass to raise cattle."

Bolsonaro has dispatched the military to fight fires and deforestation since May, with the armed forces working with an environmental agency to combat fires near Apui, where the fires were seen burning by Reuters..

"Our commitment towards fighting fires and deforestation is strong. As you can see, in July of this year when taking into account July of last year, we recorded a 28% decrease in deforestation or burning in the region. But, even then, we are criticized. At the end of the day, Brazil is a powerhouse in agribusiness. We have threats against us all the time and unfortunately a few Brazilians are working against us on this issue in the Amazon."

Foreign pressure is mounting on Brazil to protect the world's largest rainforest, an ecosystem vital to preserving climate change because of the vast amount of carbon dioxide that it absorbs. Activists want to avoid a repeat of the devastating fires that occurred last year.