Leonardo DiCaprio Responds To Brazil’s President After Being Accused Of Financing Amazon Fires

by Angela Andaloro

Leonardo DiCaprio is speaking out after being the subject of some wild accusations. On Friday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro accused the 45-year-old actor of paying to have wildfires set in the Amazon.

The right-wing leader made these accusations without any evidence supporting his claims. He also went on to accuse the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) of being complicit in order to solicit donations from the public.

Leonardo responded to these claims on Saturday, with a statement shared on his social media accounts. Leonardo has long been an advocate for environmental causes. He is one of the most outspoken celebrities on such subjects, including climate change.

Naturally, he refuted the claims while continuing his commitment to the Amazon and Brazilians. Along with his own statement, Leonardo shared statements from the CEO and chief scientist of Global Wildlife Conservation, Wes Sechrest, and the IUCN Species Survival Commission chair, Jon Paul Rodríguez, who stand in solidarity with Leo.

Leonardo DiCaprio has found himself in the middle of some serious, albeit bizarre, accusations. The actor has been accused by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro of financing wildfires in the Amazon. The president offered no evidence to indicate that Leonardo could actually have done such a thing.

The wildfires that ravaged the rainforest and other areas of Brazil became a huge subject of international concern over the summer. The fires are another indication that ignoring climate change could lead to implications we aren’t prepared to face.

The accusation expands upon another accusation circulating online. People claim that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) paid volunteer firefighters to take photos of the burning Amazon. They believe this was done to solicit donations from the public.

Leo’s alleged $500,000 contribution to WWF is what has caused him to be lumped in. WWF has denied that it paid for photos of the crisis to collect from the public. The organization has also denied receiving such a donation from the actor.

The first remarks from President Bolsonaro came from a webcast on Thursday. “The NGO people, what did they do? What’s easier? Set fire to the bush,” he remarked with no supporting evidence. “Take photo, film, send it to an NGO, the NGO spreads it out, does a campaign against Brazil, gets in touch with Leonardo DiCaprio and Leonardo DiCaprio donates $500,000 to this NGO. One part went to the people who were setting the fire, right?”

“Leonardo DiCaprio, you are assisting with the burning of the Amazon, that can’t be,” he continued. The accusations are part of a continuous battle between NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and the Brazilian leader. The environmental NGOs believe that his pro-business stance indicates support for deforestation efforts that put the precious rainforest in peril.

It’s important to note that this isn’t the first time that the Brazilian president has blamed the wildfires on others. He initially downplayed the severity of the fires as international outrage grew over what was happening. At the peak of the backlash, he accused environmental groups of setting fires in the Amazon.

Meanwhile, groups including Amnesty International maintained that President Bolsonaro and his policies were contributing to the issue at hand. These policies have allowed increased land-clearing in the rainforest by loggers and ranchers. Combined with the dry season, it was a recipe for disaster.

Leonardo responded to the claims by releasing a statement on Saturday. “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 statement begins.

“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,” it continues. Leonardo goes on to voice his continued support.

“I remain committed to supporting the Brazilian indigenous communities, local governments, scientists, educators, and the general public who are working tirelessly to secure the Amazon for the future of all Brazilians,” the actor concluded. Along with Leo’s statement came two others. There is a statement from the CEO and chief scientist of Global Wildlife Conservation, Wes Sechrest, and the IUCN Species Survival Commission chair, Jon Paul Rodríguez.

“The Amazon rainforest is in crisis. Brazil has historically made impressive progress towards protecting its unique ecosystems,” Wes Sechrest noted in his statement. “However, we are alarmed by recent events that seek to undermine this progress. In the past few days, false accusations have been made to undermine environmental defenders and distract the general public from policies that directly lead to environmental disasters like those across the Amazon earlier this year.”

The IUCN statement notes, “As an umbrella organization committed to biodiversity conservation, we are concerned that there are increasing and targeted attacks on people and groups working to protect nature in the Amazon. Environmental defenders, whether in local communities, NGOs, or government agencies, should be afforded with the highest protection of the law in Brazil.”

Leonardo’s continued commitment to environmental causes isn’t just admirable. It’s necessary in a world where climate deniers continue to turn a blind eye to the evidence all around us that our planet is in crisis. It’s up to us to make a difference, and we don’t have time to spare.