America has its own unhinged leader, but we still occasionally hear about Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s own creatively villainous president. The effects of his actions have largely been confined to his own country, but one that isn’t is the continued burning of the Amazon rainforest, caused in part by people actually setting it on fire, thus threatening the planet’s entire ecosystem. Some have put the blame on Bolsonaro, who had promised to cut back on regulations to make money off of the world’s largest rainforest (while also smearing the basin’s indigenous people). Bolsonaro, though, blames Leonardo DiCaprio.
As per Deadline, the populist president took to social media to claim, without citing any sources, that the Oscar-winning actor and longtime environmental activist was giving money to those setting the Amazon ablaze. He later doubled down, telling his supporters, “This Leonardo DiCaprio’s a cool guy, isn’t he? Giving money for the Amazon to be torched.” Bolsonaro also averred that DiCaprio was part of a larger international cabal who were leading a “campaign against Brazil.”
Some attempted to divine what, exactly, prompted the Brazilian president to make these unsubstantiated claims. One theory: That Bolsonaro was referring to four firefighters — alleged to be in cahoots with an un-named NGO, or non-profit humanitarian organization — who this week were accused of setting fire to portions of the Amazon. Said firefighters were later released after public outcry.
DiCaprio responded to the charges over Facebook, though he declined to mention Bolsonaro by name. “At this time of crisis for the Amazon, I support the people of Brazil working to save their natural and cultural heritage,” he wrote. “They are an amazing, moving and humbling example of the commitment and passion needed to save the environment.”
“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. I remain committed to supporting the Brazilian indigenous communities, local governments, scientists, educators and general public who are working tirelessly to secure the Amazon for the future of all Brazilians.”
Anyway, this is all very weird — yet another case of 2019 news that sounds like a round of Mad Libs. Large portions of the Amazon, meanwhile, have been on fire since August, prompting many world leaders to beg Bolsonaro to do something.