“The NGO people, what did they do? What’s easier? Set fire to the bush,” he said, providing no evidence to support the accusation.
He continued, “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,” Bolsonaro said.
The Brazilian president doubled down on his claims Friday, talking to supporters outside the Presidential Palace in Brasília.
“Leonardo DiCaprio is a great guy, isn’t he? Donating money to set the Amazon on fire,” he said.
“The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake and I am proud to stand with the groups protecting them,” he wrote. “While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations targeted.”
Two groups criticize Bolsonaro’s accusations
The GWC said it remains concerned with the destruction of the Brazilian Amazon and reaffirmed its stance alongside those protecting it.
“The Amazon rainforest is in crisis. Brazil has historically made impressive progress towards protecting its unique ecosystemsm,” GWC’s statement read. “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 similarly affirmed their support to those protecting the forest, while expressing concern toward the recent comments.
“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,” its statement read. “Environmental defenders, whether in local communities, NGOs, or government agencies, should be afforded with the highest protection of the law in Brazil.”