Bolsonaro's Witch Hunt has a new enemy: Leonardo DiCaprio
The Brazilian President accused the actor and other environmental groups of funding the fire in the Amazon in order to raise funds.
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Shifting the blame for the ecological tragedy by pointing fingers has become one of the most common strategies of Brazil's new far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, who last Friday accused the well-known actor Leonardo DiCaprio of being behind the fires that have devastated large areas of the Amazon forest in recent months.
"This Leonardo DiCaprio is a cool guy, right? Donating his money to set the Amazon on fire," Bolsonaro said in a conversation with the media, after declaring that the Word Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world's largest conservation organization, had purchased volunteer firefighters to take photos of the fires they would later use in their benefit campaign.
"So what did the NGO do? What's easier? Burn the rainforest, take pictures, make a video," the president added, pointing out that DiCaprio donated $500,000 to the campaign.
He concluded by directly addressing the actor:
"Leonardo DiCaprio, you're contributing to the fires in the Amazon and it's not going to work for you. Part of that (the donation) went to those who are burning the torches."
DiCaprio, a recognized activist against climate change, responded to Bolsonaro's declarations, assuring that he had not donated any money to the campaign nor promoted the fires.
The WWF also rejected the accusations.
“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,” the WWF stated.
At this time of crisis for the Amazon, I support the people of Brazil working to save their natural and cultural heritage. 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. 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.
The incidents erupted on Thursday when five firefighters linked to the NGO Alter do Chao were arrested, accused of setting fires in the jungle to document them and use the material in a fundraising campaign. However, they were freed by a judge that same day for lack of evidence.
According to the opposition and several environmental groups, the evidence does point to a governmental strategy to intimidate environmentalists and to shake off the responsibility of facilitating illegal loggers and large corporations to raze the jungle for commercial purposes.
Only last August, Bolsonaro rejected the financial aid promised by the G7 to put out the fires, which are increasingly devastating large areas of the planet's so-called "green lung," and empowered pyromaniac actors and social media narratives as a tool to extend and feed the witch hunt.
Meanwhile, the Amazon is still burning.