Protesters demand president’s exit

Close to 1m demonstrators marched in cities and towns across Brazil to protest a sluggish economy, rising prices, and corruption — and to call for the impeachment of left-wing president Dilma Rousseff.

The protests come as Brazil struggles to overcome economic and political malaise and pick up the pieces of a boom that crumbled about the time Rousseff took office in 2011.

Rousseff, now early in her second four-year term, is unlikely to face the impeachment proceedings demanded by many opponents. A fifth year of economic stagnation and a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at state-run energy company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, has fuelled their anger.

The protests are a sign of a polarised country increasingly unhappy with its leadership, especially as the hard-won gains of the recent boom begin to succumb to an economic slowdown.

The unexpectedly large demonstrations will embolden opposition parties and restive allies, including the leaders of both houses of Congress, who are nominally part of Rousseff’s ruling coalition, but nonetheless are hindering efforts to pass reforms intended to jump-start the economy.

Two members of Rousseff’s cabinet yesterday recognised the rights of protesters, but downplayed the importance of the demonstrations, saying that they were expressions of discontent by those defeated at the polls.

Aecio Neves, a centrist who was defeated by Rousseff in October, said the demonstrations marked a day when Brazilians “went to the streets to reunite with their virtues, their values and also with their dreams”.

Sunday’s gatherings were mostly calm, with little of the violence that tarnished a wave of massive demonstrations in 2013, when Brazilians protested billions of dollars of spending, even as the economy faltered, to host the 2014 World Cup.


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