Brazilian president claims Leonardo DiCaprio funded Amazon fires
By Rhett Butler - 30. November 2019
- Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro claims actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio funded fire-setting in the Amazon rainforest.
- Bolsonaro offered no evidence to support his claims, but his rhetoric echoes comments made in August when he blamed environmental groups for starting fires in the region.
- DiCaprio has raised money for NGOs working to protect the Amazon.
- Deforestation has increased dramatically since Bolsonaro assumed office.
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has accused actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio of funding fire-setting in the Amazon rainforest.
Bolsonaro offered no evidence to support his claims, but his rhetoric echoes comments made in August when he blamed environmental groups for starting fires in the region. Smoke from those fires made international headlines and called global attention to a sharp rise in deforestation since Bolsonaro took office in January 2019. Bolsonaro has yet to substantiate that earlier claim and later said ranchers and farmers might be to blame for setting fires.
The latest comments came on Thursday and Friday.
“Leonardo DiCaprio, dammit, you’re collaborating with the burning of the Amazon,” Bolsonaro stated in a Facebook live broadcast on Thursday.
The president doubled down on the claim on Friday in comments to supporters at the presidential residence.
“This Leonardo DiCaprio is a cool guy, right? Giving money to torch the Amazon,” he said.
Bolsonaro’s remarks came after four members of Alter do Chão Fire Brigade, a Brazilian non-profit, were arrested Tuesday and accused of setting fires to raise money. But those arrests have been contested as politically motivated by civil society groups and the Alter do Chão Fire Brigade members were ordered released on Thursday by a court in Pará.
Over the past 20 years DiCaprio has raised millions of dollars for NGOs working to protect the Amazon. Most recently, the Earth Alliance — a partnership between Global Wildlife Conservation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, and Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective — pledged $5 million to five Brazilian organizations working in the Amazon: Instituto Associacao Floresta Protegida, the Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon, Instituto Kabu, Instituto Raoni, and Instituto Socioambiental. None of those organizations have been named in complaints by investigators and Dicaprio said on Saturday that Earth Alliance hadn’t funded the groups subject to the current investigation.
Deforestation has increased dramatically since Bolsonaro assumed office. Earlier this month, Brazil’s national space research agency INPE announced that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon hit an 11-year high for the 12 months ended July 31, 2019. Most of that increase occurred since Bolsonaro became president: forest clearing detected by INPE’s deforestation detection system is up 78 percent in 2019 through the end of October.
Scientists have attributed the increase in part to Bolsonaro’s push to increase industrial agriculture, mining, and logging in the Amazon, while weakening the protected status of parks and indigenous lands.
Mongabay.org received grants from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 2016 and 2017. The foundation has no editorial influence on Mongabay’s content.
Neither ECOTERRA Intl. nor its affiliates (including fPcN-interCultural) received any funding from the LDF.
Brazil President blames American actor Leonardo DiCaprio for Amazon fires. Jair Bolsonaro said that Leonardo funded the fires.
Leonardo DiCaprio Denies Brazilian President's Claims He Funded Amazon Wildfires
Leonardo DiCaprio denied having made a donation to the WWF as he voiced his continued "support" for Brazilians fighting to save the rainforest
By Maria Pasquini - 30. November 2019
Leonardo DiCaprio - DPPA/Sipa USA
Leonardo DiCaprio has publicly responded to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s claims that the actor — who has long been a committed environmentalist — funded the devastating wildfires in the Amazon.
“This Leonardo DiCaprio is a cool guy, right? Giving money to torch the Amazon,” the far-right politician, who has been called the “Trump of the Tropics” due to his numerous polarizing opinions and remarks, said on Friday, according to Reuters.
Bolsonaro, who did not offer any evidence to support his accusation, made similar allegations against DiCaprio on Thursday during a Facebook Live, also claiming that the World Wildlife Fund paid firefighters to take pictures of the blazes in order to solicit donations, according to the news organization.
“(WWF) makes a campaign against Brazil, it contacts Leonardo DiCaprio, he donates $500,000,” Bolsonaro said during the broadcast. “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.”
On Saturday, the actor — who set up a $5 million fund for the Amazon’s indigenous communities through his own organization over the summer — denied having made a donation to the WWF as he voiced his continued “support” for Brazilians fighting to save the rainforest, which produces 20 percent of Earth’s oxygen and is a key factor in combating climate change.
“At this time of crisis for the Amazon, I support the people of Brazil working to save their natural and cultural heritage,” DiCaprio wrote in a statement shared to Instagram. “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,” the Oscar winner added. “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.”
Bolsonaro’s allegations also coincided with the release of four volunteer firefighters, who were arrested after being accused of setting the fires to solicit donations, Deadline reported.
Several environmentalists have said cattle ranchers and farmers intentionally set the fires to clear the land for their own use.
“These forests are not burned by accident — they are made to clear land for cattle grazing and soy production,” Daniel Brindis, head of the forest campaign for Greenpeace, previously told PEOPLE. “The companies who profit off of these commodities are based in the U.S. We encourage consumers to demand companies not destroy the forests. There is enough land out there.”
Amid these claims, many have condemned Bolsonaro, who vowed to explore the Amazon’s economic potential and condemned deforestation warnings that could interfere with trade negotiations. Activists have noted that the surge of fires began when he took office in January, Reuters previously reported.
Bolsonaro also famously fired Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research leader Ricardo Galvão after Galvão spoke out about high deforestation rates. At the time, Bolsonaro said that the findings were inaccurate.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro accused actor Leonardo DiCaprio in a Facebook live video on Thursday of funding non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that later used his money to set the Amazon Rainforest on fire.
He repeated the accusation on Friday after reporters asked him to elaborate on the claim.
Bolsonaro regularly conducts weekly Facebook live chats with the nation. On Thursday’s edition – at one point interrupted by First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro, who gave him a bouquet of flowers for their wedding anniversary – Bolsonaro claimed that Western NGOs operating in the Amazon are starting fires, filming them, then using them in propaganda against the conservative president.
“An NGO pays 70,000 reais ($16,588.08) for a fabricated photo of fires. And what is easier? You play ‘fire’ in the bush, take a photo, film it, send it to an NGO, the NGO exposes it, gets in touch with Leonardo DiCaprio, and Leonardo DiCaprio donates $500,000 to this NGO,” Bolsonaro said in his Facebook Live. “Leonardo DiCaprio, you are collaborating with the burning of the Amazon.”
On Friday morning, Bolsonaro doubled down on the accusation.
“Now Leonardo DiCaprio is a nice guy, right? Giving money to set fire to the Amazon,” he told reporters, later accusing them of mocking him for claiming that environmentalist groups were burning parts of the rainforest to accuse him of hurting the environment and ask for donations.
The Brazilian newspaper Estadao noted that police arrested four people in Pará state on Wednesday linked to environmentalist groups.
Those arrested reportedly belonged to local NGOs that claim to be fighting the fires. National law enforcement members have accused them of taking money from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to fight the fires, then burning more land to claim they need more funds to extinguish fires.
Bolsonaro’s son, the lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro, first accused DiCaprio in a Twitter post Thursday.
“Leonardo DiCaprio gave $300,000 to an NGO that set fire to the Amazon, the NGO the WWF paid 70,000 reais for the photos of the forest in flames,” Bolsonaro wrote, showing the photos he alleged were fabricated of the fires. “[French President Emmanuel] Macron and Madonna were smarter, just took some pictures taken decades ago of some burning forest on the internet and posted them.”
Leonardo DiCaprio doou USD 300.000 para a ONG que tocou fogo na Amazônia, a ONG @WWF pagou R$ 70.000 pelas fotos da floresta em chamas.
Macron e Madonna foram mais espertos, só pegaram na internet umas fotos tiradas décadas atrás de alguma floresta pegando fogo e postaram mesmo. pic.twitter.com/8bPF6jrjPV
— Eduardo Bolsonaro🇷 (@BolsonaroSP) November 28, 2019
The photos shared by Macron and Madonna, among other celebrities, were exposed as having been at least 16 years old, as their photographer died in 2003. The celebrities shared the photos amid an international panic about the Amazon that began in August, as the planting season began in the Southern Hemisphere. Farmers often burn down parts of forest to clear weeds and begin their annual planting. This year, the Brazilian government found that the fires were contained and about average in size, but environmentalist groups and celebrities accused Bolsonaro of emboldening farmers to start fires and destroy the virgin rainforest, without evidence.
Unlike Brazil under the conservative Bolsonaro, neighboring Bolivia did see a spike in unregulated fires as a result of then-President Evo Morales, a socialist, passing more permissive laws allowing the farmers that kept him in office to destroy more of the forest. While Bolsonaro’s government was simultaneously limiting the use of legal, controlled fires, most of the ire fell to Bolsonaro, particularly from Macron.
Macron’s government accused Bolsonaro of lying about his government taking the Amazon fires seriously when the two world leaders met at the G-7 Summit in Osaka this year. In response, Bolsonaro accused Macron of “colonialism” in meddling in Brazilian affairs while not working to rehabilitate the devastated, post-industrial French countryside. Bolsonaro also rejected a $20 million care package Macron wanted to send to the country, saying that Brazil could afford its stringent environmental protections.
Bolsonaro’s Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni also insulted Macron, noting his government failed to prevent a fire at the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
“Macron couldn’t even prevent a foreseeable fire in a church that is a World Heritage Site and he wants to teach our country, what [exactly]?” Lorenzoni asked. “He has a lot to take care of at home and in the French colonies. Brazil is a democratic, free country, and never had colonialist and imperialist practices like the Frenchman Macron perhaps would like.”
DiCaprio is a vocal environmental advocate, despite a luxury lifestyle that leaves a prodigious carbon footprint. In early November, DiCaprio met with teen climate alarmist Greta Thunberg, stating publicly the two had made a “commitment to support each other.” DiCaprio heralded Thunberg the “leader of our time.”