President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has falsely claimed that the Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio financed the fires recently set in the Amazon rainforest.
It was the latest attempt by the right-wing leader to shift blame for fires that have focused international concern on his government, which has scaled back efforts to fight illegal logging, ranching and mining in the Amazon.
In his remarks on Friday, Mr. Bolsonaro appeared to be commenting on strongly disputed social media postings that claimed the environmental organization the World Wildlife Fund had paid for images taken by volunteer firefighters that it then used to solicit donations, including a $500,000 contribution from Mr. DiCaprio.
The fund has denied receiving a donation from Mr. DiCaprio or obtaining photos from the firefighters.
“This Leonardo DiCaprio is a cool guy, right? Giving money to torch the Amazon,” Mr. Bolsonaro said without presenting evidence in front of the presidential residence.
A representative for Mr. DiCaprio did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. DiCaprio has been an outspoken advocate of measures to combat climate change, posting frequently on Twitter about environmental issues, including the Amazon forest fires. His foundation, which is focused on projects that “protect vulnerable wildlife from extinction,” is part of the Earth Alliance.
Mr. Bolsonaro’s remarks came after four members of the nongovernmental organization Alter do Chão Fire Brigade were arrested on Tuesday and accused by the police of setting fires in order to document them and drum up more donations.
They were released on Thursday on a judge’s order.
Politicians and nongovernmental organizations had fiercely criticized the arrests, saying they were part of a concerted attempt by Mr. Bolsonaro’s government to harass environmental groups.
Mr. Bolsonaro has repeatedly lashed out at various factions over the forest fires and the international concern they have attracted.
In a Facebook Live post on Aug. 21, he said that “everything indicates” that nongovernmental organizations were going to the Amazon to “set fire” to the forest. When asked then if he had evidence, Mr. Bolsonaro said he had “no written plan,” adding, “That’s not how it’s done.”
A day later, he admitted that farmers could be illegally setting the rainforest ablaze, but roughly a month later, he attacked the “lying media” for saying that the rainforest was being devastated by the fires.
The Amazon rainforest is considered a bulwark against global climate change.
Mr. Bolsonaro also talked about Mr. DiCaprio on Thursday during the live webcast. The president said the World Wildlife Fund had paid the volunteer firefighting organization to take pictures of forest fires in the Amazon.
“So what did the N.G.O. do? What is the easiest thing? Set fire to the forest. Take pictures, make a video,” the president said, adding that the fund “makes a campaign against Brazil, it contacts Leonardo DiCaprio, he donates $500,000.”
“A part of that went to the people that were setting fires,” Mr. Bolsonaro said. “Leonardo DiCaprio, you are contributing to the fire in the Amazon; that won’t do.”
Source : The New York Times0