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Brazil vice president invites DiCaprio to see reality of Amazon rainforest

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourao on Wednesday called on actor Leonardo DiCaprio to visit the Amazon to see the reality of the situation there, as the government faces criticisms for rising destruction in the world’s largest rainforest.

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Mourao invited DiCaprio, an environmental campaigner, to go with him personally on a journey along a notoriously ill-maintained road in the remote far western Amazon near the town of Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira.

“I would like to invite our most recent critic, Leonardo DiCaprio, to go with me to Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira to do an eight-hour ride through the jungle between the Sao Gabriel airport and the Cucui highway,” Mourao said

“He will learn with each big pothole that he has to pass that the Amazon is not a flat land and understand better how things work in this vast region.”

Representatives for DiCaprio did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Last year, as surging fires in the Amazon provoked global outcry, Brazilian right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro accused DiCaprio of funding fires in the Amazon, without presenting any evidence. DiCaprio denied the allegation.[nL1N28A00T]

This year, the number of fires rose in June and July compared to a year ago, but in the first 15 days of August, fires were down 17% compared to a year ago, according to government data. [nL1N2FJ0UK][nL3N2F20W4]

Deforestation is up 34.5% in the 12 months through July, compared to the same period a year ago, preliminary government data shows.[nL1N2F913F]

DiCaprio has a foundation dedicated to the environment and has called for Amazon preservation. Scientists say the Amazon is vital to curbing climate change, because of the vast amount of greenhouse gas that the forest absorbs.

In July, DiCaprio on Twitter praised the Brazilian government’s 120-day ban on fires in the Amazon, an attempt to rein in the destruction.

Reporting by Ricardo Brito and Jake Spring; Editing by Alistair Bell

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