DiCaprio denies Bolsonaro accusation of link to Amazon blazes

Hollywood actor denies accusations of funding groups that allegedly started fires this year in Brazil.

Leonardo DiCaprio said in his denial that 'the future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake' [File: AFP]

Actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio responded to Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro after he accused him of funding groups allegedly linked to the fires in the Amazon rainforest.

“At this time of crisis for the Amazon, I support the people of Brazil working to save their natural and cultural heritage,” DiCaprio posted on Instagram

However, “while worthy of support,” the 45-year-old actor said, “we did not fund the organisations targeted”.

In his weekly broadcast on Thursday, Bolsonaro accused DiCaprio of “collaborating with the fires in the Amazon” this year by donating $500,000 to a group he said started the fires in the ecologically sensitive forest in order to attract donations.

While citing no evidence, Bolsonaro said DiCaprio earmarked the money “for the people who were setting fires”.

The far-right Brazilian president repeated the accusations on Friday. 

“This Leonardo DiCaprio is a cool guy, right? Giving money to torch the Amazon,” he said during brief remarks in front of the presidential residence.

Jair Bolsonaro
Jair Bolsonaro, an advocate of greater commercial exploitation of the Amazon, blamed NGOs for the fires [File: Evaristo SA/AFP] 

DiCaprio, long an environmental activist, said in his denial: “The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake, and I am proud to stand with the groups protecting them.”

Since 2018, the Alter do Chao volunteer fire brigade has helped firefighters combat huge blazes in northern Para state, including a recent fire that destroyed the equivalent of 1,600 football fields.

But regional police claim some members linked to the group have actually started fires in a bid to raise international funding.

Four of the group’s members were arrested on Tuesday before being released two days later.

Investigators say the volunteers set several fires in order to sell photos of the blazes to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) for use in a campaign to raise international donations – including from DiCaprio.

The WWF has denied receiving a donation from DiCaprio or obtaining photos from the firefighters. The group also said it transferred only about 70,000 reals ($16,800) to the local group for firefighting equipment.

Bolsonaro, an advocate of greater commercial exploitation of the Amazon, blamed NGOs for the fires in August that destroyed vast swaths of the rainforest.

Those blazes drew widespread international condemnation of Bolsonaro’s stewardship of the Amazon.

Officials with the Alter do Chao fire brigade have called Bolsonaro’s allegations unfounded.

Both Amnesty International and Greenpeace have accused the government of loosening environmental enforcement in the Amazon and, through government rhetoric, encouraging illegal deforestation.

Source: News Agencies