After years of being criticized for failing to prevent the destruction of the Amazon, Brazil's government says it is willing to take action to stop deforestation. But it wants cash up front from other countries, including $1 billion from the US. President Jair Bolsonaro's government made the request ahead of a virtual summit on the environment President Biden will host on Thursday and Friday, the Wall Street Journal reports. Brazil’s environment minister, Ricardo Salles, tells the Journal that Biden promised during a presidential debate last year that he would raise $20 billion from around the world to save the Amazon. Salles says $1 billion is a "very reasonable" demand and the funds would be used to step up enforcement of environmental laws and create new industries to employ the slash-and-burn farmers responsible for deforestation.
Salles said last month that "we will line up a series of actions that can bring quick results" if the international community pays up. Critics, however, accuse Bolsonaro of trying to blackmail the world and say his administration already has resources it has failed to deploy to stop rampant deforestation. "He wants new money with no real constraints," Marcio Astrini, head of the Brazilian environmental group Climate Observatory, tells the New York Times. "This is not a trustworthy government: not on democracy, not on the coronavirus, and far less so on the Amazon." The BBC reports that dozens of American and Brazilian celebrities released an open letter this week urging Biden not to sign a deal with Bolsonaro's government until it takes steps to protect both the rainforest and the rights of the indigenous people in the region. (Read more Brazil stories.)