Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro blamed Leonardo DiCaprio for funding organizations that he claims intentionally started fires in the Amazon rainforest to raise donation money. Bolsonaro made his statement on Friday without presenting any evidence as he faces growing scrutiny from other governments over his role in the intentional deforestation, according to Reuters.
The wild claim against the actor allegedly stems from several social media posts that accused the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) of starting fires to generate more interest from the public and cause a flood of donations. Bolsonaro also claimed that DiCaprio gave the non-profit foundation $500,000, Reuters reports.
Bolsonaro made his statement in front of the presidential residence where he took aim at the actor.
“This Leonardo DiCaprio is a cool guy, right? Giving money to torch the Amazon,” the Brazilian president said.
He was publicly attacking Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Leo got caught in the crossfire because of his support for the WWF. The president also claimed that the WWF purchased photos and video from Brazilian firefighters to increase interest and donations.
“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.”
DiCaprio is a known advocate of combating climate change and often uses his platform to spread awareness about issues including the fires in the Amazon Rainforest.
The non-profit issued a statement shortly after Brazil’s president’s verbal attack.
“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.”
Both the WWF and DiCaprio denied the allegation that the actor donated $500,000 but the star did praise the organization and credited “the people of Brazil working to save their natural and cultural heritage.” DiCaprio said, “While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations targeted.”
Earlier this week, members of the volunteer firefighter organization, Alter do Chão Fire Brigade were arrested and accused of starting the fires but after a wave of public backlash, a judge released the accused on Thursday.
Scientists blame the fires and deforestation on ranchers, land speculators, and farmers despite Bolsonaro’s claim. Many farmers believe that they have the right to clear their land for agricultural use.
The drama between the WWF and the Brazilian president is far from over but hopefully, DiCaprio’s part in this argument is over.