Brazil protesters target president Dilma Rousseff

Brazil protesters target president Dilma Rousseff

Brazilians have taken to the streets of cities and towns across the country for anti-government protests.

Called mostly by activist groups via social media, the protesters demonstrated against President Dilma Rousseff, who is fighting for her political life amid a corruption scandal that has embroiled politicians from her Workers’ Party, as well as a sputtering economy, spiralling currency and rising inflation.

It initially appeared the protests, the third of their kind this year, had drawn relatively modest crowds.

A large inflatable doll dressed in prison garb and in the image of the Brazil's Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is seen during a protest against the government of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, in front of the Brazilian National Congress, in Brasilia, Brazil.

Political analysts said Sunday’s turnout could help determine the protest movement’s future, with massive crowds ratcheting up the pressure on the government. The lower turnout, however, looked likely to give Ms Rousseff some breathing room.

Even in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s industrial and economic capital, where dissatisfaction with Ms Rousseff has tended to run particularly high and protests in March and April drew thick crowds, turnout appeared significantly lower.

Rousseff supporters in the city staged a small counter-demonstration in front of the offices of Ms Rousseff’s mentor and predecessor, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

In Rio de Janeiro, several thousand people, many brandishing green and yellow Brazilian flags, demonstrated along Copacabana Beach.

The Rio demonstration was to coincide with a cycling test event for next year’s Olympic Games in the city, but organisers changed the route and timing of the sporting event to avoid a possible clash.

Protests took place in some 16 states, including in the Amazonian metropolis of Belem, Recife, in the north-east, and the central city of Belo Horizonte.

In the capital, Brasilia, a march on a central avenue flanked by ministries and monuments also appeared to have drawn several thousand participants.

The demonstrations were called largely by web-based activist groups with demands ranging from Ms Rousseff’s impeachment to a return to military dictatorship like the one that ruled the country from 1964-1985.

But an end to corruption appeared to be a top demand, amid the widening probe into corruption at the state-run Petrobras oil company.

Operation Car Wash, which began more than a year ago as an investigation into a bribes-for-contracts scheme at Petrobras, has exposed how widely corruption permeates Brazilian society, snaring top members of the Workers’ and other political parties, as well as executives of powerful construction companies.

Sao Paulo demonstrator Marisa Bizquolo said she held Ms Rousseff responsible for the Petrobras scandal.

“She must be impeached or resign for ultimately she is responsible for all the corruption and the economic mess this country is in,” said the 62-year-old doctor. “But I am concerned that there is no one who could take her place and run a decent government. We have no leaders.”

Amid the corruption probe and an economic crunch that has seen the once-booming economy teeter on the brink of recession, Ms Rousseff’s popularity ratings have fallen to a level not seen since 1992, when President Fernando Collor de Mello was forced from office after being impeached for corruption.

A poll earlier this month showed only 8% of those surveyed considered Brazil’s government to be “great” or “good.” By contrast, 71% said the government is a “failure”. The Datafolha poll was based on interviews with 3,358 people on August 4 and 5 and had an error margin of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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