Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro blamed actor Leonardo DiCaprio for in part funding the rash of wildfires plaguing the Amazon rainforest. Bolsonaro’s meritless accusations, which he made Friday, comes as the Brazilian president faces increased scrutiny from other world governments over his role in the intentional deforestation.
Bolsonaro’s claims against DiCaprio stem from a series of social media postings that accused the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) of intentionally starting Amazon wildfires in order to procure donations, including from the environmentally conscious actor, who Bolsonaro claimed gave the non-profit foundation $500,000, Reuters reports.
“This Leonardo DiCaprio is a cool guy, right? Giving money to torch the Amazon,” Bolsonaro said in his latest attack against NGOs fighting to save the rainforest. The president also claimed that the WWF had purchased photos from firefighters battling the Amazon wildfires in order to increase fundraising efforts, which the WWF denied.
“So what did the NGO do? What is the easiest thing? Set fire to the forest. Take pictures, make a video. (WWF) makes a campaign against Brazil, it contacts Leonardo DiCaprio, he donates $500,000,” Bolsonaro said. “A part of that went to the people that were setting fires. Leonardo DiCaprio, you are contributing to the fire in the Amazon, that won’t do.”
“WWF Brazil rejects the attacks on its partners and the lies involving its name, including a series of lie-based social media attacks such as the purchase of photographs linked to a donation from the actor Leonardo DiCaprio,” the WWF said in a statement.
Both the WWF and DiCaprio also denied that the actor donated $500,000, although DiCaprio did voice his support of the organization, praising “the people of Brazil working to save their natural and cultural heritage.” DiCaprio added, “While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations targeted.”
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At this time of crisis for the Amazon, I support the people of Brazil working to save their natural and cultural heritage. They are an amazing, moving and humbling example of the commitment and passion needed to save the environment. The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake and I am proud to stand with the groups protecting them. While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations targeted. I remain committed to supporting the Brazilian indigenous communities, local governments, scientists, educators and general public who are working tirelessly to secure the Amazon for the future of all Brazilians.
Earlier in the week, four members of the volunteer firefighter organization Alter do Chão Fire Brigade were arrested on allegations that they purposefully set fires in order to raise donations; following a public outcry, a judge ordered the firefighters be released Thursday.
While Bolsonaro has blamed NGOs for the Amazon wildfires, scientists and experts have instead blamed ranchers, land speculators and farmers for the deforestation for agricultural use, with Bolsonaro’s rhetoric emboldening those starting the wildfires.
Randolfe Rodrigues, a senator from the Amazon state of Amapá, tweeted of Bolsonaro (via the Guardian) “What despair! Our negligent and incompetent president – responsible for an environmental dismantling unprecedented in our country – wants to blame DiCaprio but won’t blame his own administration which is incapable of taking a single step without destroying something.”