Troops ordered in after Brazil protesters trash govt buildings

The Agriculture Ministry was one of the government buildings trashed during protests in Brasilia on Wednesday.
The Agriculture Ministry was one of the government buildings trashed during protests in Brasilia on Wednesday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

President under pressure to quit from demonstrators, own party's MPs

BRASILIA • Protests against embattled Brazilian President Michel Temer have exploded into scenes of violence across the capital city of Brasilia with demonstrators setting fire to the Agriculture Ministry, trashing several government buildings and clashing repeatedly with police, prompting the government to deploy the armed forces.

The outpouring of violence - the worst to hit Brasilia in years - ratcheted up the pressure on Mr Temer just as he sought to suppress a revolt in his own party by lawmakers who want to oust him after last week's damaging graft allegations.

As protests raged, government allies inside the presidential palace debated whether to stick with the embattled President.

The best solution to remove Mr Temer, who is being investigated by the prosecutor-general on corruption and cover-up charges, is for the top electoral court to annul the 2014 election result in which he shared a ticket with ousted president Dilma Rousseff, according to half a dozen legislators from his ruling PMDB party who spoke to Bloomberg News.

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The court will retake the case on alleged illegal campaign financing on June 6.

Wednesday's violent scenes weighed on financial markets and challenged the optimistic government view that it would be possible for Mr Temer to rebuild his coalition and advance an economic reform agenda which investors consider crucial to fix the country's public finances and help pull Latin America's largest economy out of recession.

The decision to deploy the armed forces also provoked an outcry from lawmakers, as well as a Supreme Court judge, who questioned the move given Brazil's history with the military.

The decree prompted legislators to come to blows, with the scuffles resulting in the suspension of a congressional session for the second time in two days.

The nation was rocked last week by news of a Supreme Court-authorised probe into Mr Temer on allegations of passive corruption and obstruction of justice, only days before Congress had planned to vote on a pension Bill considered central to the administration's economic reform efforts.

The President, a 76-year-old career politician, has refused to heed widespread calls to resign, saying that charges against him were trumped up and the evidence doctored.

The current scandal has raised the chances that Brazil could see a second president fall in less than a year.

Mr Temer, a former vice-president, took office a year ago after Ms Rousseff was impeached for breaking budgetary laws.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2017, with the headline 'Troops ordered in after Brazil protesters trash govt buildings'. Print Edition | Subscribe