Di­Caprio de­nies ac­cu­sa­tion of link to Ama­zon fires

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Sao Paulo, Brazil - Amer­i­can ac­tor Leonardo Di­Caprio on Satur­day de­nied a claim by Brazil­ian Pres­i­dent Jair Bol­sonaro that he had helped fund groups al­legedly linked to fires in the Ama­zon rain for­est.

‘While wor­thy of sup­port’, the 45 year old Di­Caprio said in a statement on his In­sta­gram ac­count, ‘we did not fund the or­gan­i­sa­tions tar­geted’.

In his weekly broad­cast on Thurs­day, Bol­sonaro ac­cused Di­Caprio of ‘col­lab­o­rat­ing with the fires in the Ama­zon’ by do­nat­ing US$500,000 to a group he said had started fires in the eco­log­i­cally sen­si­tive for­est in or­der to at­tract do­na­tions.

While cit­ing no ev­i­dence, Bol­sonaro said that Di­Caprio had ear­marked a part of the US$500,000 ‘for the people who were set­ting fires’. The far­right Brazil­ian Pres­i­dent re­peated the ac­cu­sa­tions on Fri­day.

Di­Caprio, long an en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist, said in his de­nial that ‘ the fu­ture of th­ese ir­re­place­able ecosys­tems is at stake, and I am proud to stand with the groups pro­tect­ing them’.

He of­fered praise for those in Brazil who work ‘to save their nat­u­ral and cul­tural her­itage’.

Since 2018, the Al­ter do Chao vol­un­teer fire bri­gade has helped fire­fight­ers com­bat huge blazes in north­ern Para state, in­clud­ing a re­cent fire in the Al­ter do Chao re­gion that de­stroyed the equiv­a­lent of 1,600 soc­cer fields.

But re­gional po­lice claim that some mem­bers linked to the group have ac­tu­ally started fires in a bid to raise in­ter­na­tional fund­ing. Four of the group’s mem­bers were ar­rested be­fore be­ing re­leased.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors say the vol­un­teers set sev­eral fires in or­der to sell pho­tos of the blazes to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) for use in a cam­paign to raise in­ter­na­tional do­na­tions - in­clud­ing from Di­Caprio.

WWF’s Brazil sub­sidiary has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions, say­ing it trans­ferred only around 70,000 re­als (US$16,800) to the lo­cal group for fire­fight­ing equip­ment.

Bol­sonaro, an ad­vo­cate of greater com­mer­cial ex­ploita­tion of the Ama­zon, blamed NGOs for the fires in Au­gust that de­stroyed vast swaths of the rain­for­est. Those fires drew wide­spread in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion of Bol­sonaro’s stew­ard­ship of the Ama­zon.

Officials with the Al­ter do Chao bri­gade have called Bol­sonaro’s al­le­ga­tions un­founded.

Both Amnesty In­ter­na­tional and Green­peace have ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of loos­en­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal en­force­ment in the Ama­zon and, through gov­ern­ment rhetoric, en­cour­ag­ing il­le­gal de­for­esta­tion.

Brazil re­cently re­leased re­vised sta­tis­tics show­ing de­for­esta­tion in the Ama­zon sur­passed 10,000sqkm in the year to July 2019, the high­est in more than a decade.

Fu­ture of th­ese ir­re­place­able ecosys­tems is at stake

Leonardo Di­Caprio

(AFP)

US ac­tor Leonardo Di­Caprio

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