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Brazil’s burning ban takes effect as Amazon fires rage

A 60-day ban on burning in Brazil took effect Thursday after a global outcry over fires raging in the Amazon and data showing hundreds of new blazes in the rainforest.

The decree issued by President Jair Bolsonaro comes after escalating international pressure over the worst fires in the Amazon in years, which have ignited a diplomatic spat between Brazil and Europe.

But activists quickly doused hopes that the ban would work.

“The people who burn without a license are not going to obey,” said Rodrigo Junqueira of the Socio-Environmental Institute.

Thousands of troops and firefighters have been deployed since the weekend to combat the fires, along with two C-130 Hercules and other aircraft that are dumping water over affected areas in the country’s north.

Police on Thursday arrested three people for burning more than 5,000 hectares (12,350 acres) in a conservation area in Para state.

More than 1,600 new fires were ignited between Tuesday and Wednesday, taking this year’s total to almost 85,000 — the highest number since 2010, official data shows. Around half of them are in the vast Amazon basin.

Bolsonaro, however, claimed in a live broadcast on Facebook that “this year’s fires are below the average of recent years.”

UN chief Antonio Guterres on Thursday mooted a meeting of key countries to drum up support to tackle the fires that have also devastated swaths of Bolivia.

“We are strongly appealing for the mobilization of resources and we have been in contact with countries to see whether, during the high-level session of the General Assembly, there could be a meeting devoted to the mobilization of support to the Amazon,” Guterres told reporters.

Brazil’s foreign ministry said it was not aware of the proposal.

It urged “foreign authorities” to learn more about the country’s environmental policies, the situation in the Amazon and measures taken to combat the fires “before proposing new initiatives.”

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