Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday accused Hollywood actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio of sponsoring the Amazon rainforest fires, reported Reuters.
International attention was drawn to the Amazon in August after an estimated 83% increase in forest fires compared to the same time period in 2018. DiCaprio had at that time pledged $5 million (approximately Rs 35 crore) to help protect Brazil’s rainforests.
“Leonardo DiCaprio’s a cool guy, isn’t he? Giving money for the Amazon to be torched,” Bolsonaro told reporters. He had made a similar claim on Thursday in a Facebook live broadcast. He accused the actor of being part of an international “campaign against Brazil”. Bolsonaro, however, offered no proof of the allegations.
Bolsonaro’s allegations come days after the Brazil Police arrested four volunteer firefighters and accused them of deliberately setting the rainforest ablaze in order to boost fundraising efforts. However, they were released on Thursday after widespread public outrage.
On Thursday, Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo Bolsonaro claimed on Twitter that DiCaprio had donated $300,000 ( approximately Rs 2.15 crore) to “the NGO that set fire to the Amazon” and accused the conservation group WWF of paying the NGO for photographs of the burning forest.
WWF’s Brazil office rejected those claims. “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,” it said.
Bolsonaro’s unsubstantiated claims against the Hollywood actor triggered criticism from Opposition politicians and activists. “How desperate,” tweeted Randolfe Rodrigues, a senator from the Amazon state of Amapá. “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.”
Ivan Valente, an Opposition Congressman, said Bolsonaro’s delirium has no limits. “Accusing Leonardo DiCaprio of paying for the Amazon to be ‘torched’ is pathetic. But their deliberate lies are also revealing,” he tweeted.