Brazilians call for president's ouster in nationwide rallies

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff speaking at the Human Rights Award ceremony in Brasilia on Dec 11.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff speaking at the Human Rights Award ceremony in Brasilia on Dec 11. PHOTO: AFP
A giant inflatable duck dwarfs protesters calling for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff at a demonstration on Sunday in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city. Some Brazilians, upset about the country's weak economy, have launched a duck-themed c
A giant inflatable duck dwarfs protesters calling for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff at a demonstration on Sunday in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city. Some Brazilians, upset about the country's weak economy, have launched a duck-themed campaign called "Nao vou pagar o pato" - loosely translated as "I will not pay the bill" - as a protest against her government's plans to increase taxes so as to pull the country out of its economic crisis.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAO PAULO • Thousands have taken to the streets in cities across Brazil demanding that embattled President Dilma Rousseff - facing a weak economy and calls for her impeachment - be removed from office.

Ms Rousseff is fighting for her political life as she stands accused of illegal budgeting manoeuvres that she says were long-accepted practices by previous governments.

A one-time political prisoner during the 1964-1985 military regime, Ms Rousseff derides the attempt to bring her down as a "coup".

"Time has shown that Dilma is unable to govern. She's thrown the country down a well," argued Ms Adriano de Queiroz, 36, who was one of those who protested in the capital, Brasilia, on Sunday.

Sunday's protests were the fourth time this year that demonstrators across the sprawling nation marched to demand the removal of the country's first female president.

But the turnout at Sunday's rallies, seen as a barometer of the national mood, was lower than expected, with 83,000 people demonstrating across 87 cities, the Globo G1 news website cited police as saying.

A large-scale mobilisation could increase pressure on lawmakers to vote for Ms Rousseff's impeachment. Lower House Speaker Eduardo Cunha had opened impeachment proceedings against her on Dec 2, agreeing that Congress should consider opposition allegations that she violated budget laws to increase spending during her 2014 re-election campaign.

But many Brazilians are more upset about the worst recession in at least 25 years and a corruption scandal at state-run oil firm Petrobras that has ensnared her allies.

Her administration has proposed increasing taxes in order to pull the country out of the crisis, a move that has led some Brazilians to launch a duck-themed campaign to protest against those plans.

Ms Rousseff herself is not under investigation in the scandal, but many question how she could not have known about the corruption as she was chairman of the company from 2003 to 2010.

Currently the opposition is not thought to have the votes to impeach Ms Rousseff.

If a House committee decides in favour of impeachment, the process will go to a vote on the House floor, where the opposition needs two- thirds of the votes to begin a 180- day impeachment trial in the Senate. During that trial, Ms Rousseff would be suspended and replaced by Vice-President Michel Temer.

The Supreme Court has suspended impeachment proceedings until it rules on the validity of a secret ballot vote that selected the members of the House committee. Meanwhile, Mr Cunha is facing formal charges in the Petrobras investigation over bribery allegations.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2015, with the headline 'Brazilians call for president's ouster in nationwide rallies'. Print Edition | Subscribe