Leonardo DiCaprio has denied unsubstantiated claims that he helped fund non-profit groups that have been blamed for deliberately causing the Amazon forest fires.
On Friday (29 December), Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro made false claims that the Oscar-winner’s environmental organisation Earth Alliance donated $5m to local environmental groups, which he claimed were responsible for starting the fires.
“DiCaprio is a cool guy, isn’t he? Giving money to set the Amazon on fire,” Bolsonaro said to supporters at the presidential residence on Friday 29 November. He claimed, without evidence, that fires are being set deliberately in order to encourage charity donations.
Brazilian police raided two non-profit organisations in the state of Pará, leading to the arrest of four volunteer firefighters who are being investigated for “allegedly igniting fires to obtain funding from sympathetic donors”, the Associated Press reported. A judge subsequently ordered the release of the volunteers, who have denied any wrongdoing.
In a statement published to his Instagram account, DiCaprio denied that he funded the groups involved.
“At this time of crisis for the Amazon, I support the people of Brazil working to save their natural and cultural heritage,” he wrote. “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.
He continued, “While worthy of support, we did not fund the organisations 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.”
Environmental groups have argued that Bolsonaro is responsible for the rise in forest fires in the Amazon due to his rollback on deforestation restrictions.
Deforestation in the Amazon increased by 30 per cent between August 2018 and July 2019, in comparison to the previous year, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research has claimed.