Mass rallies in Brazil to call for removal of president

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

President Dilma Rousseff:  Hundreds of thousands are expected to take to the streets on Sunday  to demand her impeachment. Photograph: Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

President Dilma Rousseff: Hundreds of thousands are expected to take to the streets on Sunday to demand her impeachment. Photograph: Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

 

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.

Counter-rally

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

Renan CalheirosEduardo Cunha

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

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