Brazil’s Bolsonaro: Leonardo DiCaprio Should ‘Give Up His Jets and Yacht’ for the Environment

Evaristo Sa/Getty Images/AP Photo/Cliff Owen
Evaristo Sa/Getty Images/AP Photo/Cliff Owen

A years-long feud between Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and American actor Leonardo DiCaprio continued this week with the president suggesting that DiCaprio’s environmental activism was disingenuous, given his frequent use of private jets and luxury yachts.

The Titanic star triggered the ire of the conservative president initially in 2019, joining an international campaign to shame Bolsonaro over fires in the Amazon Rainforest. The actor – among other celebrities and world leaders, most prominently including French President Emmanuel Macron – shared photos of fires in the Amazon that could not have been taken during Bolsonaro’s tenure and nonetheless blamed his policies for them, predicting that the natural landmark would soon be destroyed.

Bolsonaro is currently seeking re-election, running slightly behind socialist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the polls. Lula, a darling of the international left that former President Barack Obama once referred to as “the most popular politician on earth,” could not compete against Bolsonaro in the 2018 election because he was convicted of using taxpayers’ dollars to buy a luxury beachfront property and sentenced to 25 years in prison. The country’s top court, the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), reversed the conviction last year.

Lula is currently enjoying a wave of attempted positive press – marred by his own insistence on defending Russian strongman Vladimir Putin – thanks to being celebrated on the cover of Time magazine this week. Time notably any criticism of the high rate of Amazon fires during Lula’s first tenure between 2003 and the beginning of 2011.

While DiCaprio has not openly endorsed Lula, he called for mass voter registration in Brazil this week, particularly urging young Brazilians to participate in what many interpreted as a thinly veiled attack on Bolsonaro.

The president’s latest criticism of DiCaprio was not directed at the actor, but at the Brazilian pop star Anitta, who posted on Twitter that she had met with DiCaprio and that the actor “knows more about the importance of our Amazon Rainforest than the president of Brazil.” The singer also said that she and DiCaprio were pairing up to “save the country,” presumably from Bolsonaro.

“I’m happy that you spoke to a Hollywood actor, Anitta, it is the dream of every teenager,” Bolsonaro replied on Tuesday. “I talk to millions of Brazilians every day. They are not famous, but they are the compass [that directs] our decisions, because nobody defends and knows more about Brazil than its own people.”

Bolsonaro went on to advise Anitta to “advise Leo to give up his jets and yacht.”

“These vehicles emit more CO2 into the atmosphere in a day than dozens of Brazilian families in a month. Before you start giving lessons, it is necessary to set an example,” the president suggested.

DiCaprio’s affinity for large yachts has become a signature of his off-screen persona – and a frequent complaint from those accusing him of hypocrisy for taking up environmentalist activism as a hobby. As Vanity Fair observed in January:

This guy [DiCaprio], would you believe it, was on a yacht. Of course you believe it. This guy loves yachts. The man simply cannot get enough of them. He is like an oenophile, traversing the lands, grabbing up whatever fermented grapes Dionysus has left us down here. Like, if there is a rare and elegant wine, he’s tried it or wants to try it—but with yachts.

Bolsonaro had already criticized DiCaprio this week in response to the actor posting reminders to Brazilians to register to vote, reminding him that he had shared old photos of Amazon fires in 2019 in an attempt to smear the preisdent.

Leonardo DiCaprio was far from the only celebrity to share old images in an attack on Bolsonaro that year.

“Our house is on fire. Literally,” Macron, the French president, dramatically proclaimed that year, posting a photo of a fire in a rainforest.

Jaden Smith, Ricky Martin, and Camila Cabello all posted the same image of the fires as Macron, taken by photographer Loren McIntyre, who died in 2003. DiCaprio additionally posted a photo of Peru and blamed Bolsonaro for it.

At the time, Bolsonaro responded not just by condemning the celebrities for sharing misleading content, but accusing DiCaprio in particular of funding non-governmental organizations (NGO) he claimed were setting fires in the Amazon Rainforest deliberately to smear his administration.

“An NGO pays 70,000 reais ($16,588.08) for a fabricated photo of fires. And what is easier? You play ‘fire’ in the bush, take a photo, film it, send it to an NGO, the NGO exposes it, gets in touch with Leonardo DiCaprio, and Leonardo DiCaprio donates $500,000 to this NGO,” Bolsonaro said in a wide-ranging conversation on Facebook Live. “Leonardo DiCaprio, you are collaborating with the burning of the Amazon.”

Bolsonaro later accused DiCaprio directly of “giving money to set fire to the Amazon.”

DiCaprio denied any affiliation with the NGOs Bolsonaro mentioned, though called them “worthy of support.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


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