Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Brazil on Sunday for anti-government demonstrations across the continent-sized country.
RIO DE JANEIRO — For the second time in a month, thousands of protesters marched in cities across Brazil on Sunday calling for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, who is struggling with a sharp economic slowdown, simmering bribery scandals and dismal approval ratings.
But in a sign that the pressure on Rousseff may be easing somewhat, the turnout appeared to be lower than on March 15, when anti-government groups mounted protests ranking among the largest since the re-establishment of democracy in 1985. Still, tens of thousands of demonstrators focused their ire on Rousseff, who is less than four months into her second term.
“Dilma lied about the economic situation during her campaign,” said Felipe Madruga, 20, a student of law and economics who was among the protesters in São Paulo, referring to the president by her first name, as is common in Brazil.
Echoing the sentiment of many voters regarding last October’s unusually tense election, Madruga pointed out that Rousseff, of the leftist Workers Party, accused her rival, Aécio Neves, a centrist senator, of preparing to raise interest rates and to pursue austerity measures, before overseeing the implementation of just such policies once she was re-elected.
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With Brazil’s economy eking out growth of just 0.1 percent in 2014 and expected to contract this year, Rousseff is facing indignation over rising unemployment and high inflation. Sixty-three percent of Brazilians believe she should face impeachment proceedings, according to a public opinion survey released over the weekend by Datafolha, a Brazilian polling company.
But in a sign of the confusion in the country over pursuing such a path, fewer than 15 percent of those favoring impeachment knew that it would be Michel Temer, the vice president from the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, who could take over if Rousseff were impeached.
Offering some hope to Rousseff, her approval ratings have stopped plunging, though they remain at just 13 percent, according to the poll. The survey, conducted on April 9-10 in interviews with 2,834 people, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
São Paulo, Brazil’s economic capital and a bastion of anti-government fervor, featured the largest demonstration on Sunday. Questioned about what appeared to be a smaller turnout, organizers said that protests had spread to an array of smaller cities around Brazil, reflecting a broadening of their movement.
In Rio de Janeiro, the protest had a mellow vibe with demonstrators mingling with beachgoers in the seaside Copacabana district. Some protesters held signs celebrating Sérgio Moro, the low-profile federal judge in southern Paraná state who is overseeing the investigation into the bribery scheme at Petrobras, the national oil company.
Other protesters adopted a harsher tone, excoriating Rousseff over the sluggish economy and the corruption scandals. Fringe demonstrators called for a “constitutional” military intervention, which would apparently involve a junta’s taking power before calling for new presidential elections.
While such agitation draws uneasy comparisons with the 1964 coup which installed a long military dictatorship, a bigger concern for Rousseff seems to lie in the scandals shaking her own Workers Party as prosecutors broaden their investigations, accusing former legislators of taking bribes to secure lucrative contracts with Caixa Econômica Federal, a state-owned bank.