Fires in the Amazon rainforest led to São Paulo being covered with thick black clouds earlier this year, and their effects are still being felt over 1,250 miles away, with research showing they’re contributing to melting glaciers. The huge rise in forest fires has been attributed to the devastating effects of human activity, primarily deforestation for corporate agriculture.
But guess what? Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has another culprit in mind. Addressing a group of supporters in Brasília on Friday, he pointed the finger at – wait for it – Leonardo DiCaprio.
“DiCaprio is a cool guy, isn't he?” he said, according to the Brazilian daily newspaper Folha de S.Paulo. “Giving money to set the Amazon on fire.”
Obviously, this completely unsubstantiated claim is pretty unbelievable, especially since DiCaprio’s foundation donated $5 million to groups fighting the Amazon fires at the time. This is alongside the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation’s other work, which includes mapping the world’s nature, saving endangered animals, and preparing farmers for global warming.
However, it’s not an isolated tactic for Bolsonaro’s government. Earlier this week, there also came reports that police raided the headquarters of a Brazilian NGO working with Amazon communities. Four volunteer firefighters were arrested on charges of starting wildfires to raise funding (the firefighters denied the claims and have since been released).
In fact, Bolsonaro has been fuelling such conspiracy theories since as early as August. Meanwhile, his support for deforestation has earned him the nickname “Captain Chainsaw” and he has made repeated arguments for relaxing industrial regulations.
Besides celebrities like DiCaprio stepping in where governments have failed to act, indigenous activists have been leading a fight to save the Amazon rainforest, with tens of thousands of indigenous women and girls marching on the Brazilian capital in August.