Since coming into office, Jair Bolsonaro has emboldened cattle ranchers and loggers looking to clear the world’s biggest rainforest for farmland – prompting international condemnation over ongoing fires in the region.
However, Mr Bolsonaro has since aimed to turn the blame on his detractors by accusing foreign NGOs of setting the fires themselves to gain funding for projects.
Now he has turned his ire on actor DiCaprio, stating without providing evidence that the Hollywood actor was funding groups setting fires.
“DiCaprio is a cool guy, isn’t he? Giving money to set the Amazon on fire,” the president said to supporters in Brasilia.
The criticism of DiCaprio and environmental activists follows a police raid at the headquarters of two non-profit groups in the Amazonian state of Para earlier this week.
Local police also arrested four volunteer firefighters who they say are under investigation for allegedly igniting fires to obtain funding from sympathetic donors.
A judge later ordered their release after the four said they had done nothing wrong.
DiCaprio’s environmental organisation Earth Alliance has pledged $5m (£3.8m) to help protect the Amazon after a surge in fires destroyed large parts of the rainforest in July and August.
But the actor and committed environmentalist said in a statement that his group had not funded either of the two non-profits named by investigators so far.
“While worthy of support, we did not fund the organisations targeted,” the statement read.
“The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake and I am proud to stand with the groups protecting them.”
Figures from Brazil’s space agency show levels of deforestation in the Amazon have hit their highest rate in more than a decade.
Loss of forest between August 2018 and July this year is up by 30 per cent compared with the same period a year earlier, according to official data released on Monday by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.
The total level of deforestation recorded was 9,762 square kilometres – the greatest area of rainforest levelled since 2008 – amounting to over 2,000 football pitches a day.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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