Brazil's Bolsonaro hits back at Leonardo DiCaprio over election tweet

President posts sarcastic response to the actor's plea for voter registration and climate change awareness

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who is also an environmental activist, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have often clashed on issues concerning the Amazon rainforest. AP
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A tweet by Leonardo DiCaprio about the coming Brazilian elections has annoyed the country's President Jair Bolsonaro, who has responded to the Hollywood star with his own sarcastic post.

DiCaprio, a known environmental activist who donated $5 million to conservation efforts in the Amazon rainforest in 2019, posted a tweet on Thursday encouraging Brazilian youths to register to vote — implying they should vote against Bolsonaro.

"Brazil is home to the Amazon and other ecosystems critical to climate change. What happens there matters to us all and youth voting is key in driving change for a healthy planet," DiCaprio said, sharing a link about voter registration.

Bolsonaro, who has been widely criticised for cutting environmental protections, hit back on Friday with a sarcastic tweet.

"Thanks for your support, Leo! It's really important to have every Brazilian voting in the coming elections," he wrote. "Our people will decide if they want to keep our sovereignty on the Amazon or to be ruled by crooks who serve foreign special interest.

"Good job in The Revenant!" he added.

DiCaprio has openly criticised Bolsonaro since he took office in 2019, particularly for his management of fires in the Amazon rainforest.

The actor has also joined initiatives launched by various NGOs calling for all investment in Brazil to hinge on firm commitments from the government to preserve the Amazon.

Bolsonaro has rejected these demands, which he says infringe on Brazilian sovereignty.

Since Bolsonaro took office, average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased by more than 75 per cent from the previous decade, according to official figures.

His government is also accused of allowing rampant deforestation — including illegal burning by gold miners, farmers and timber traffickers — while environmental regulation agencies have had their budgets cut.

According to government satellite data, the number of trees cut down in the Brazilian Amazon in January this year far exceeded deforestation for the same month last year. The area destroyed was five times larger than in 2021, the highest January total since records began in 2015, according to the BBC.

This is not the first time Bolsonaro has taken aim at DiCaprio. In 2019, he accused the actor of "giving money to set the Amazon on fire".

According to the National Institute for Space Research, nearly 73,000 forest fires were recorded in Brazil in the first eight months of that year, the highest number for any year since 2013. Most were in the Amazon.

In 2020, Bolsonaro denied fires were ravaging the Amazon rainforest, despite data from his own government showing the number of blazes was increasing.

"A tropical rainforest doesn't catch fire," he said. "So this story that the Amazon is burning is a lie and we have to fight it with real numbers."

Last year, DiCaprio joined dozens of celebrities to urge US President Joe Biden not to sign any environmental deal with Brazil amid rising deforestation in the Amazon.

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is currently leading the presidential race to challenge Bolsonaro in this October's election.

— Additional reporting by AFP

Scroll through the gallery for pictures from Leonardo DiCaprio's appearance at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in 2021:

Updated: April 30, 2022, 11:40 AM