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DiCaprio, Katy Perry urge Biden to refuse Brazil environment deal

NEW YORK: Dozens of US and Brazilian celebrities, including film actor Leonardo DiCaprio, pop star Katy Perry and musician Gilberto Gil, released a letter urging US President Joe Biden not to agree to any environmental deals with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro.

The United States has been holding talks with Brazil since February on a potential collaboration to stop surging destruction of the Amazon rainforest, although Brazil’s environment minister said no deal would be ready for this week’s US Earth Day summit organized by Biden.

“We urge your Administration to hear their call and not commit to any agreements with Brazil at this time,” the celebrities said in an open letter addressed to Biden.

The signatories also include actors Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Rosario Dawson, Uzo Aduba, Sigourney Weaver, Jane Fonda, Alec Baldwin and Orlando Bloom as well as musicians Caetano Veloso and Philip Glass.

“We join a growing coalition… in urging your administration to reject any deal with Brazil until deforestation is reduced, human rights are respected, and meaningful participation by civil society is met,” the letter said.

It urged Biden to hold dialogues with Brazilian state and local governments, indigenous and civil society about possible solutions for the Amazon before making commitments or bankrolling new initiatives.

Deforestation in Brazil’s portion of the Amazon surged to a 12-year high in 2020, with an area 14 times the size of New York City being destroyed, government data showed.

Amazon deforestation has skyrocketed under right-wing Bolsonaro, who has weakened environmental protections and called for development of the rainforest.

Indigenous and environmental groups say that any deal with the Bolsonaro government risks legitimising a Brazilian administration that is encouraging environmental destruction and human rights violations.

In 2019 Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has accused Leonardo DiCaprio of funding fire-setting in the Amazon rainforest without giving any evidence to support his claims.

The fires made international headlines and called global attention to a sharp rise in deforestation since Bolsonaro took office.

“Leonardo DiCaprio, dammit, you’re collaborating with the burning of the Amazon,” Bolsonaro had stated in a Facebook live broadcast. “This Leonardo DiCaprio is a cool guy, right? Giving money to torch the Amazon,” he said.

Over the past 20 years DiCaprio has raised millions of dollars for NGOs working to protect the Amazon.