Brazil’s president blames Leonardo DiCaprio for Amazon fires in bizarre rant

Leonardo DiCaprio has been blamed for devastating forest fires in the Amazon by Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.

The 45-year-old Hollywood actor has been accused of funding non-profit groups which Mr Bolsonaro blames for devastating fires in the Amazon rainforest.

The president's remarks, which were not backed up with proof, were part of a wider government campaign against environmental nonprofit groups operating in Brazil.

Speaking to supporters in Brasilia, the president said: "DiCaprio is a cool guy, isn't he? Giving money to set the Amazon on fire."

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DiCaprio's environmental organisation Earth Alliance has pledged $5 million (£3.8 million) 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 his group had not funded any of the two nonprofits 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."

Some members of Mr Bolsonaro's administration argue that civil society groups and environmental laws hinder economic development in the region.

The criticism of DiCaprio and environmental activists follows a police raid at the headquarters of two nonprofit groups in the Amazonian state of Para earlier this week.

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Local police also arrested four volunteer firefighters and say they are investigating them for allegedly igniting fires to obtain funding from sympathetic donors.

The volunteer firefighters denied any wrongdoing and a judge ordered their release.

Federal prosecutors say their investigations point to land-grabbers as primary suspects for fires in the area, not nonprofits or firefighters.

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Cattle ranchers, farmers and illegal loggers have long used fire to clear land in the Amazon.

This is not the first time Brazil's president has suggested, without evidence, that nonprofit groups are setting fires in the Amazon, or questioned warnings about climate change.

In August, in the midst of an international outcry over the Amazon fires, Mr Bolsonaro blamed the "information war going on in the world against Brazil" and fired the head of the governmental space research institute that monitors deforestation.

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