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Tens of Thousands March in Brazil Cities to Protest Rousseff

Sunday, 15 March 2015 01:55 PM

Brazilians, some of them calling for President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, took to the nation’s streets by the tens of thousands Sunday to protest a government beset by scandal and the rising cost of living.

The protests occurred in cites of 16 states and the federal capital, according to O Globo website. Its TV network reported 45,000 protesters in Brasilia, 20,000 in Belo Horizonte, 20,000 in Belem, 15,000 in Rio de Janeiro, 8,000 in Recife and 4,000 in Salvador, citing the military police of those cities. A march in Sao Paulo was scheduled for 2 p.m. As of early afternoon, no violence or vandalism had been reported.

Higher taxes and increased prices for government-regulated items like gasoline are rankling Brazilians as the biggest corruption scandal in the nation’s history ensnares elected and appointed officials. The approval rating of Rousseff’s government has plummeted since she won a close re-election last October. Today’s protests are the largest since June 2013 demonstrations in which more than a million people decried deficient public services and demanded an end to corruption.

“It’s important because it signals what kind of pressure the government will face in coming months from the streets,” Joao Augusto de Castro Neves, Latin America analyst at Eurasia Group, said by phone from Washington. “Potentially, it could grow as the economy starts to take more of a hit from recession and all the adjustment measures they’re implementing.”

Raising Taxes

Rousseff’s government is raising taxes and cutting spending as a means to shrink the budget deficit and avert a downgrade to its sovereign credit rating after years of ballooning spending and subsidized lending. Her press office declined to comment on the size or nature of the protests.

The president will meet at the end of the day with ministers from her political coordination team to evaluate the protests, Agencia Estado reported.

The economic measures hamper the productive sector and act as a disincentive to investment, said Derci Cenci, the head of a farm co-operative, who joined the protest in Brasilia.

“I don’t favor impeachment, but this protest is a clear warning to Dilma: She needs to listen to the people,” said Cenci, 65. “We are indignant.”

The demonstrations were organized by activists on social networks including Twitter and Facebook, as messages reached citizens via WhatsApp. Protesters nationwide sported canary- yellow shirts, sang the national anthem and waved flags. In Rio, where the march snaked along Copacabana beach, one banner with Brazil’s flag read “Beloved Country,” while another said “Military Intervention Now!”

Today marks the 30th anniversary of Brazil’s return to democracy after a 21-year military dictatorship.

‘Covered Up’

“Our president covered up corruption and Brazil is tired of it,” Vaucamir Endlich, a 43-year-old accountant, said at the protest in Rio. “The Workers’ Party received Brazil on the right track and pulled it off.”

Brazil’s Supreme Court on March 6 authorized a corruption probe of politicians including the heads of the Senate and lower house of Congress, Rousseff’s former Energy Minister Edison Lobao, and her former chief of staff Gleisi Hoffman. All have denied wrongdoing.

The probe is related to alleged bribes and kickbacks at state-run oil producer Petroleo Brasileiro SA, with some of the diverted money being funneled into the campaign coffers of the Workers’ Party and its allies in the governing coalition. The parties have said that all campaign donations were legal.

Lower Rating

Today’s demonstrations follow marches staged on Friday by labor unions, who supported the government while protesting cuts to pension benefits and access to unemployment insurance.

Rousseff’s approval rating slumped 19 points to 23 percent in a Datafolha poll conducted Feb. 3-5, with more than three- quarters of respondents saying she knew about corruption at Petrobras. More than half said she allowed corruption to occur, while an additional 25 percent said knew about it but was unable to stop it. The poll of 4,000 people had a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

“I’m in favor of impeachment, not because I like the vice- president, but because we need to end impunity,” Daniel Silva, a 17-year-old business management student from Planaltina, said at the Brasilia protest. “I’m fed up with our politicians and this government.”

After stagnating last year, Brazil’s economy is heading for a 0.66 contraction in 2015, according to economists surveyed weekly by the central bank. Annual inflation reached 7.7 percent in February, the fastest in nearly a decade. The central bank targets inflation of 4.5 percent, plus or minus two percentage points.



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Brazilians, some of them calling for President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment, took to the nation's streets by the tens of thousands Sunday to protest a government beset by scandal and the rising cost of living. The protests occurred in cites of 16 states and the federal...
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Sunday, 15 March 2015 01:55 PM
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