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Biden's criticism of Amazon deforestation draws swift reaction in Brazil

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BRASILIA (Reuters) – U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called on the world to offer Brazil $20 billion to stop Amazon deforestation, and threatened “economic consequences” if it did not, drawing swift reaction from the Brazilian government on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participates in the first 2020 presidential campaign debate with U.S. President Donald Trump, held on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., September 29, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

“Just one question: Biden’s $20 billion in aid, is that yearly?” Brazil Environment Minister Ricardo Salles tweeted on Wednesday.

In Tuesday’s heated first U.S. campaign debate, Biden said Brazil provided an example of how President Donald Trump “has no relationship with foreign policy.”

“The rainforests of Brazil are being torn down,” he said.

“I would be gathering up and making sure we had the countries of the world coming up with $20 billion, and say, ‘Here’s $20 billion. Stop tearing down the forest. And if you don’t then you’re gonna have significant economic consequences.’”

Biden’s remark prompted speculation among Brazilian journalists about what those possible consequences could be, with major broadcaster GloboNews’ Washington correspondent Raquel Krähenbühl saying on Twitter it was a threat of sanctions.

Official data show that an area roughly the size of Lebanon was deforested in Brazil’s Amazon in 2019, an 11-year high, with preliminary government data for 2020 showing forest clearances up 34.5%.

But Salles and the government of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro maintain that Brazil is a model of conservation because of the amount of forest still standing.

Brazil has also repeatedly said that the world should pay up if it wants more forest to be preserved.

The country’s demands that the world adopt a system that honors old Kyoto protocol carbon credits, for which Brazil hopes to be paid, contributed to U.N. talks failing last year on how to regulate carbon markets.

Brazil is also launching an adopt-a-park program seeking funding for preserving its protected areas, but newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo reported this month it had attracted no foreign interest.

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