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Brazil Leader Targets A-List Actor Over Amazon Fires

Jair Bolsonaro points finger at Leonardo DiCaprio for rainforest blazes
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 30, 2019 5:30 AM CST
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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is seen in Brasilia, Brazil, on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

(Newser) – Without offering proof, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday said actor Leonardo DiCaprio had funded nonprofit groups that Bolsonaro claims are partly responsible for fires in the Amazon this year. Bolsonaro’s remarks about the actor were part of a wider government campaign against environmental nonprofit groups operating in Brazil. "DiCaprio is a cool guy, isn't he? Giving money to set the Amazon on fire," the president said to supporters in Brasilia. DiCaprio’s environmental organization Earth Alliance has pledged $5 million to help protect the Amazon after a surge in fires destroyed large parts of the rainforest in July and August. But the actor and committed environmentalist said in a statement sent to the AP that his group hadn't funded any of the two nonprofits named by investigators so far. "While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations targeted," the statement read.

The criticism of DiCaprio and environmental activists follows a police raid at the headquarters of two nonprofit groups in the Amazonian state of Para earlier this week. Local police also arrested four volunteer firefighters and say they're investigating them for allegedly igniting fires to obtain funding from sympathetic donors. The volunteer firefighters denied any wrongdoing, and a judge ordered their release. Federal prosecutors say their investigations point to land-grabbers as primary suspects for fires in the area, not nonprofits or firefighters. This isn't the first time Brazil’s president has suggested, without evidence, that nonprofit groups are setting fires in the Amazon, or questioned warnings about climate change. In August, Bolsonaro blamed the "information war going on in the world against Brazil" and fired the head of the governmental space research institute that monitors deforestation.

(Read more Jair Bolsonaro stories.)

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