Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has accused, without any evidence, actor Leonardo DiCaprio of financing the forest fires in the Amazon.
“That Leonardo is a cool guy, right? He gives money to set fire to the Amazon”, Bolsonaro said during a brief statement for the presidential residence in the Brazilian capital Brasília.
The extreme right-wing president was referring to unconfirmed rumors on social media in which the World Wildlife Fund is accused of paying firefighters to make recordings of the Amazon fires. These images would have been used for a donor campaign in which DiCaprio also would have donated nearly half a million euros.
Both the WWF and DiCaprio deny the unsubstantiated allegations made by the president. “Although they are certainly worth supporting, we have not funded the organizations that are currently under attack,” the actor said in a statement. “The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake and I am proud to be part of the groups that protect them.” .
The film star, who describes himself as an actor and environmental activist, has his own foundation with which he tries to protect endangered species. DiCaprio also regularly tweets about the fight for a better environment. He also donated 4.5 million euros last summer to repair damaged parts of the rainforest.
Four members of the non-governmental organization (Algo) “Alter do Chão Fire Brigade” were arrested on Tuesday. The police suspected them of deliberately lighting forest fires in order to be able to film them and in this way to attract more donations. By order of the judge they had to be released on Thursday. The investigator has since been removed from the case and replaced. Federal investigators say illegal conquerors are the main suspects of lighting the fires and not non-profit organizations or firefighters.
Politicians and other NGOs have serious criticism of the arrest, saying that it is part of a targeted government slander campaign against environmental activists. It is not the first time that Bolsonaro has blamed activists for the forest fires.
On August 21, during a Facebook live broadcast, the president claimed that “everything indicates” that NGOs are moving into the Amazon to “set fire to the forest.” When Bolsonaro was asked for evidence of his allegations, he said he did not have a “black on white” plan, “of course they don’t work that way.”
A day later, the president said that farmers could also be responsible for the fires in the rain forest, but in September he attacked the “lying media” because of their coverage of the fires in the Amazon.
Thursday night Bolsonaro suddenly mentioned Leonardo DiCaprio during a webcast. The president then claimed that the WWF would have paid the aforementioned NGO to make images of the fires in the Amazon.
“So what does the NGO do? What is the easiest? Set fire to the forest. Take photos and make a video clip, “the president said. “(WWF) is launching a campaign against Brazil, contacting Leonardo DiCaprio and donating $ 500,000.”
“Part of that money has been given to the arsonists. Leonardo DiCaprio, you contribute to the forest fires in the Amazon. That is unacceptable, “said Bolsonaro.