Protesters Across Brazil Call for President Dilma Rousseff’s Ouster

RIO DE JANEIRO — Protesters in cities across Brazil called for the ouster of President Dilma Rousseff on Sunday, reflecting rising anger in the country over huge corruption scandals and a deepening economic crisis.

It was the fifth time in the past year that groups had mobilized large numbers of demonstrators — thousands both here and in São Paulo — for protests in the streets against the governing leftist Workers’ Party. The movement regained momentum this month after investigators targeted Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the influential former president, who picked Ms. Rousseff as his successor.

More than 500,000 people were at the protest in São Paulo, according to the Datafolha polling company, ranking it among the largest since the end of military rule in the 1980s.

The entanglement of Mr. da Silva, 70, in inquiries into graft schemes involving Brazilian construction companies that benefited from lucrative government contracts has dealt another blow to Ms. Rousseff, 68. She was already battling impeachment proceedings over claims that she had improperly used funds from state banks to cover budget gaps.

“The first thing that needs to be done is to put Dilma and Lula in jail,” Alcides Langsch, 51, an unemployed engineer, said at the protests in Rio de Janeiro. “They’re merely communists in disguise who created a bloated state while their party profited from systematic corruption.”

Despite such sentiment, Mr. da Silva, who was president from 2003 through 2010, has lashed out in recent days. He has contended that he is innocent and that powerful media groups are unfairly zeroing in on him over charges of money laundering and misrepresentation of assets.

Ms. Rousseff continues to refuse to resign. “If there is no reason to do so, I will not step down,” she said on Friday.

Struggling with a rebellion in her governing coalition and the prospect that Mr. da Silva may even be arrested, Ms. Rousseff also said she would be “extremely proud” to have the former president in her cabinet.

Such a move would give Mr. da Silva the special judicial standing enjoyed by senior government officials and hundreds of members of Congress, allowing them to be tried only by the Supreme Federal Tribunal, Brazil’s highest court. This standing effectively allows them to avoid arrest, while producing years of delays in trials.

Mr. da Silva has not said whether he would accept such a post. Political analysts say doing so may convey the impression that he is avoiding prosecution. While Mr. da Silva never stopped exerting influence in Brasília, the capital, his formal return to the government could also transform Ms. Rousseff, an already weakened leader, into something of a figurehead.

With the economy in a severe downturn and Ms. Rousseff’s government gripped by a sense of paralysis, anger is building around the country. Even within Ms. Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, influential figures are resisting her efforts to rebuild economic confidence by changing the pension system.

Still, it remains unclear whether big segments of Brazilian society that benefited from expanded social welfare programs under the Workers’ Party are ready to turn on Ms. Rousseff and Mr. da Silva. In Rio, thousands of demonstrators crowded a beachfront avenue; many on the street seemed to come from relatively privileged backgrounds.

Nevertheless, resentment was palpable among many protesters. Some in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, expressed frustration with much of the established order.

Durval Sanches, 77, a retired bank employee in São Paulo, said he would support a military coup if the legal system was not capable of curbing the Workers’ Party. The party originated under Mr. da Silva’s leadership in the 1980s as a coalition of union leaders and left-wing intellectuals opposed to Brazil’s military dictatorship, which ruled from 1964 until 1985.

Mr. Sanches also said he was disgusted with the scandal-plagued congressional leaders in line for the presidency if Ms. Rousseff or her vice president, Michel Temer, was forced from office as a result of corruption inquiries. He joked that an acceptable choice as president could be Tiririca, a clown whose stage name means “Grumpy” and who was elected to Congress in a 2010 protest vote.

“Tiririca would need a team to guide him,” Mr. Sanches said of the congressman, whose real name is Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva. “But he’d be better than this band of thieves we have now.”


Source: The New York Times. Mariana Simões contributed reporting from Rio de Janeiro, and Paula Moura from São Paulo, Brazil.

Photo: Demonstrators in São Paulo, Brazil, on Sunday called for the resignation of the president amid an economic crisis and corruption scandals. Credit Miguel Schincariol/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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