Mass rallies in Brazil to call for removal of president

Dilma Rousseff’s government dogged by investigation into Petrobras corruption scandal

Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians are expected to take to the streets on Sunday in the latest round of the campaign to force President Dilma Rousseff’s removal from office.

Rallies calling for her impeachment have been organised in more than 100 cities in what will be the first major test of the public mood since giant pro-impeachment rallies in March and April helped inflame a crisis that has paralysed the country’s political system and worsened an economic recession.

The protests have been called by a disparate group of social movements that range from anti-corruption activists to hard right organisations demanding military intervention in the democracy.

Largely organising on social media, the pro-impeachment movement emerged in response to Ms Rousseff's victory in last October's presidential election despite evidence of her ruling Workers Party's involvement in the massive corruption scandal uncovered in state-controlled oil company Petrobras.



Besieged by the crisis and deserted by a growing number of allies, the party and its union affiliates have called for a counter-rally in

São Paulo


The move is part of a strategy by to rally party members and allies to defend Ms Rousseff against what it perceives as an attempted right-wing coup by stealth.

But efforts by the administration to relaunch Ms Rousseff’s second term are being undermined by the worsening recession and the progress of the investigation into corruption in Petrobras. Sunday’s protests will be the first since the arrest of José Dirceu, one of the founders of the Workers Party who prosecutors accuse of orchestrating the scheme which saw companies and politicians loot billions of euro from the oil giant.

The scandal has helped drive the president’s support to historic lows. A recent poll showed just 8 per cent of Brazilians still support her, the lowest level for any president since the return of civilian rule in 1985, with two thirds now in favour of impeachment.

Ms Rousseff did get some relief this week when Brazil’s top audit court gave her administration 15 more days to explain irregularities in the accounts it filed for last year. If the court rules that the irregularities were an attempt to cover up breaches of fiscal responsibility laws, opponents in congress will have a possible legal basis to launch formal impeachment proceedings.

Breathing space

She also won some political breathing space when

Renan Calheiros

, the president of the senate, agreed a package of measures to combat the economic crisis. The deal helps isolate the congress’s lower house whose leader

Eduardo Cunha

has declared his opposition to the president and is aggressively pushing a legislative agenda to undermine her administration.

Mr Calheiros and Mr Cunha face indictment for participation in the Petrobras case.


Death squads

Nineteen people were shot dead in Greater São Paulo on Thursday night in attacks that bore the hallmarks of police revenge killings. They took place in the region where on Wednesday a police officer was shot dead during the attempted robbery of a shop.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America