Leo DiCaprio in Bolsonaro's gunsights

Fresh from his involvement in a $3-billion Malaysian corruption scandal, leftist actor Leo DiCaprio is now finding himself in yet another international controversy, this time in Brazil.

According to the Hollywood Reporter:

Without offering proof, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday said actor Leonardo DiCaprio had funded nonprofit groups that he claimed are partly responsible for fires in the Amazon this year.

Bolsonaro's remarks about the American actor were part of a wider government campaign against environmental nonprofit groups operating in Brazil.

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

DiCaprio's environmental organization Earth Alliance has pledged $5 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 sent to The Associated Press Friday his group had not funded any of the two nonprofits named by investigators so far.

"While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations 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 Bolsonaro's administration argue that civil society groups and environmental laws hinder economic development in the region.

Based on all of the reports I've read about this, it doesn't look as though DiCaprio had anything directly to do with a recent incident involving some Brazilian volunteer firefighters who reportedly started a rainforest fire and then took pictures of it in order to sell them to the World Wildlife Fund, which is always running panda balloon photos over the Brazilian rainforest, as if they own it, much to the irritation of Brazilians.

But as sloppy as Bolsonaro was being about the Hollywood actor, who's kind of the global face of this kind of geo-do-gooding, he was onto something in the broader sense that NGO rackets create a lot of problems even as they claim to do good.

The story being argued and investigated now involves some of them.  The New York Times reports:

Mr. Bolsonaro's remarks came after four members of the nongovernmental organization Alter do Chão Fire Brigade were arrested on Tuesday and accused by the police of setting fires in order to document them and drum up more donations.

They were released on Thursday on a judge's order.

Politicians and nongovernmental organizations had fiercely criticized the arrests, saying they were part of a concerted attempt by Mr. Bolsonaro's government to harass environmental groups.

...and...

The president said the World Wildlife Fund had paid the volunteer firefighting organization to take pictures of forest fires in the Amazon.

"So what did the N.G.O. do? What is the easiest thing? Set fire to the forest. Take pictures, make a video," the president said, adding that the fund "makes a campaign against Brazil, it contacts Leonardo DiCaprio, he donates $500,000."

"A part of that went to the people that were setting fires," Mr. Bolsonaro said. "Leonardo DiCaprio, you are contributing to the fire in the Amazon; that won't do."

 DiCaprio defended the other NGO, though, despite the allegations.  According to the Hollywood Reporter:

DiCaprio's environmental organization Earth Alliance has pledged $5 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 sent to The Associated Press Friday his group had not funded any of the two nonprofits named by investigators so far.

"While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations targeted," the statement read. "The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake and I am proud to stand with the groups protecting them."

...which suggests they are all sticking together.

While Bolsonaro is using the high-profile DiCaprio as a symbol of outside environmental groups messing with Brazil's prosperity, and cripes, it would be better if he didn't given the subsequent press focus on the inaccuracy of the matter, he does correctly point out that the NGO groups act as a coterie, and their agenda is unified. 

And to say NGOs are as pure as they claim to be is nonsense, given the major example of Chevron and its dispute with NGOs in bed with Ecuador's socialist government, in the common aim of shaking down the oil giant. They do this, and their aims are far from pure.

It seems to be the case that at least some NGOs are misbehaving in Brazil, too.  Bolsonaro's attention to DiCaprio both draws attention to the matter and draws attention away from it as the press focuses on DiCaprio's apparent innocence.

The bigger story, though, is still out there, and it would be good to keep the spotlight on that, too.   

Image credit: Colin Chou via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 3.0.

Fresh from his involvement in a $3-billion Malaysian corruption scandal, leftist actor Leo DiCaprio is now finding himself in yet another international controversy, this time in Brazil.

According to the Hollywood Reporter:

Without offering proof, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday said actor Leonardo DiCaprio had funded nonprofit groups that he claimed are partly responsible for fires in the Amazon this year.

Bolsonaro's remarks about the American actor were part of a wider government campaign against environmental nonprofit groups operating in Brazil.

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

DiCaprio's environmental organization Earth Alliance has pledged $5 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 sent to The Associated Press Friday his group had not funded any of the two nonprofits named by investigators so far.

"While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations 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 Bolsonaro's administration argue that civil society groups and environmental laws hinder economic development in the region.

Based on all of the reports I've read about this, it doesn't look as though DiCaprio had anything directly to do with a recent incident involving some Brazilian volunteer firefighters who reportedly started a rainforest fire and then took pictures of it in order to sell them to the World Wildlife Fund, which is always running panda balloon photos over the Brazilian rainforest, as if they own it, much to the irritation of Brazilians.

But as sloppy as Bolsonaro was being about the Hollywood actor, who's kind of the global face of this kind of geo-do-gooding, he was onto something in the broader sense that NGO rackets create a lot of problems even as they claim to do good.

The story being argued and investigated now involves some of them.  The New York Times reports:

Mr. Bolsonaro's remarks came after four members of the nongovernmental organization Alter do Chão Fire Brigade were arrested on Tuesday and accused by the police of setting fires in order to document them and drum up more donations.

They were released on Thursday on a judge's order.

Politicians and nongovernmental organizations had fiercely criticized the arrests, saying they were part of a concerted attempt by Mr. Bolsonaro's government to harass environmental groups.

...and...

The president said the World Wildlife Fund had paid the volunteer firefighting organization to take pictures of forest fires in the Amazon.

"So what did the N.G.O. do? What is the easiest thing? Set fire to the forest. Take pictures, make a video," the president said, adding that the fund "makes a campaign against Brazil, it contacts Leonardo DiCaprio, he donates $500,000."

"A part of that went to the people that were setting fires," Mr. Bolsonaro said. "Leonardo DiCaprio, you are contributing to the fire in the Amazon; that won't do."

 DiCaprio defended the other NGO, though, despite the allegations.  According to the Hollywood Reporter:

DiCaprio's environmental organization Earth Alliance has pledged $5 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 sent to The Associated Press Friday his group had not funded any of the two nonprofits named by investigators so far.

"While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations targeted," the statement read. "The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake and I am proud to stand with the groups protecting them."

...which suggests they are all sticking together.

While Bolsonaro is using the high-profile DiCaprio as a symbol of outside environmental groups messing with Brazil's prosperity, and cripes, it would be better if he didn't given the subsequent press focus on the inaccuracy of the matter, he does correctly point out that the NGO groups act as a coterie, and their agenda is unified. 

And to say NGOs are as pure as they claim to be is nonsense, given the major example of Chevron and its dispute with NGOs in bed with Ecuador's socialist government, in the common aim of shaking down the oil giant. They do this, and their aims are far from pure.

It seems to be the case that at least some NGOs are misbehaving in Brazil, too.  Bolsonaro's attention to DiCaprio both draws attention to the matter and draws attention away from it as the press focuses on DiCaprio's apparent innocence.

The bigger story, though, is still out there, and it would be good to keep the spotlight on that, too.   

Image credit: Colin Chou via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 3.0.