Hundreds of Thousands of Brazilians Join Anti-Government Rallies Across the Country


Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians joined anti-government rallies across the country on Sunday, ramping up the pressure on embattled president Dilma Rousseff.

Already struggling with an impeachment challenge, the worst recession in a century and the biggest corruption scandal in Brazil’s history, the Workers Party leader was given another reason to doubt she will complete her four-year term by the latest significant show of public frustration.

The giant demonstrations in at least 18 cities were expected to be far bigger than similar rallies last year. Initial reports by local media put the crowds at 100,000 in Brasilia, 70,000 in Curitiba, 30,000 in Belo Horizonte and 15,000 in Goiânia, with figures still to come in from elsewhere. The biggest of them all was expected to be São Paulo’s.

In Rio de Janeiro, dense crowds stretched along the beachfront from Copacabana to Leme, and organisers estimated there were as many as a million participants. Police have yet to provide figures, but by mid-afternoon the crowd appeared to contain considerably more than 100,000

Many protesters wore the canary yellow shirts of the national football team, or draped themselves in the national flag. Others carried banners expressing anger at bribery scandals and economic woes.

Parents brought children, and some families wore matching “impeachment now” T-shirts. Neighbours travelled on public buses, chanting anti-Rousseff slogans.

“She’s a horror,” said Paulo Rodriguez, a 53-year-old businessman who came with his wife and daughter. “The Workers Party is a horror. They’re a criminal organisation that is robbing state resources. They are destroying our country.”

Rodriguez’s primary frustration was with the economy. Sales at his crepe business were down 30% to 40% compared to last year, he said. Even though he believed opposition politicians were as crooked as those in government, he felt a change was needed.

“If Dilma goes, the currency will get stronger and confidence will return and people will start spending again,” he said.

Worryingly for Rousseff, some of the major protests were in former Workers Party strongholds in the north-east.

In Rio, the crowd was predominantly white, middle class and predisposed to supporting the opposition. Several of the more prominent figures who spoke from sound trucks had rightwing backgrounds.

Among them was Marcelo Itagiba, the city’s former state security secretary and ex-federal police superintendent, who has been investigated for ties with militias and was one of the inspirations for the gritty film Elite Squad 2.

Now a congressman with the Brazilian Social Democratic Party – ostensibly in the government’s camp – he led chants of “Fora Dilma!” (“Dilma Out!”) from the top of a sound truck, and tried to shout down a critic by labeling him “Petista” (a Workers Party supporter).

But compared to last year, the extreme right was less in evidence in Copacabana. The crowd also appeared more diverse.

“It’s not just the rich. Everyone is suffering,” said house cleaner Claudia Brasilina, who had travelled almost an hour to get to the protest from her home in the poor suburb of São Cristovão. “Dilma is ruining the country. She has to go.”

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SOURCE: The Guardian, Jonathan Watts