Brazil’s president accuses actor DiCaprio of paying to burn the Amazon

SAO PAULO: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro claimed on Friday (Nov 29) that Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio financed fires being set in the Amazon rainforest, without presenting any evidence, the right-wing leader's latest broadside in casting blame over forest fires that have generated international concern.

Bolsonaro appeared to be commenting on social media postings claiming that the environmental organisation the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) had paid for images taken by volunteer firefighters that it then used to solicit donations, including a US$500,000 contribution from DiCaprio.

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The WWF has denied receiving a donation from DiCaprio or obtaining photos from the firefighters.

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

A representative for DiCaprio did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DiCaprio has been an outspoken advocate on behalf of combating climate change, posting frequently on Twitter about environmental issues, including the Amazon forest fires. His Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which is focused on projects that "protect vulnerable wildlife from extinction," is part of the Earth Alliance.

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Four members of the nongovernmental organisation Alter do Chão Fire Brigade were arrested on Tuesday with police accusing them of purposefully setting fires in order to document them and drum up more donations. They were released on Thursday on a judge's order.

Politicians and other NGOs fiercely criticised the arrest, saying it was part of a concerted attempt by Bolsonaro's government to harass environmental groups.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly lashed out at various factions in casting blame for the forest fires.

In a Facebook live post on Aug 21, he said, "Everything indicates" that NGOs were going to the Amazon to "set fire" to the forest. When asked then if he had evidence to back up his claims, Bolsonaro said he had "no written plan," adding "that's not how it's done."

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