Thousands of Brazilians took to the streets on Sunday to demand that embattled President Dilma Rousseff, facing a weak economy and a major political crisis including calls for her impeachment, be removed from office.
Rousseff is battling for her political life, standing accused of illegal budgeting maneuvers that she says were long-accepted practices by previous governments.
If there was any good news for her on Sunday, it was that turnout at the rallies seen as a barometer of national mood was less than expected. Just days ago, pro-Rousseff and opposition deputies pushed and screamed during voting to form an impeachment commission.
But protesters Sunday were much calmer, marching peacefully behind a giant inflatable Rousseff dressed up as Pinocchio in Brasilia, and in Sao Paulo with two similar balloons of Dilma and former president Lula da Silva dressed as jail inmates.
The turnout hit about 81,000 nationwide, with 59 cities reporting demonstrations, according to police cited by the Globo television network. Organizers, meanwhile, insisted the number was really 385,000, according to Globo.
About 30,000 rallied in the country’s wealthy industrial and financial hub Sao Paulo, it reported. It was a sharp contrast to the 2.4 million anti-Rousseff marchers on March 15.
It was the fourth time this year that demonstrators across the sprawling nation took to the streets to demand the removal of Brazil’s first female president.
With her popularity ratings at only 10%, Rousseff has little political muscle, and the impeachment push in part reflects the country’s anger at multiple crises, including a major corruption scandal at state oil giant Petrobras.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court suspended for one week the commission that will recommend whether or not Congress should impeach the president, citing irregularities. Of the 65 congressional deputies elected in controversial circumstances to the panel about 30% face criminal probes, according to a detailed count by specialist website Congresso em Foco.
The architect of the impeachment drive himself, House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, has been charged with taking as much as $40 million in bribes. He allegedly stashed the loot in secret Swiss accounts.