Troops pulled off Brasilia's streets

They had been put there after riots by protesters calling for President to quit

BRASILIA • Brazil's President Michel Temer has ordered troops off the streets of the capital, backtracking after deploying them to guard government buildings following riots by protesters demanding his resignation.

Critics interpreted the troop deployment as a sign of desperation by a President fighting for his political life after a corruption scandal reached his doorstep. A decree published online in the official journal said the President had revoked a measure to deploy 1,500 federal troops - a delicate issue in a country with living memory of a military dictatorship.

Shortly afterwards, soldiers began to withdraw from around government buildings they had spent the night guarding in Brasilia.

Some of the facades were visibly damaged and burned from Wednesday's riots. Protesters smashed their way into ministries and fought with riot police on Wednesday in some of the most violent scenes yet in a year of political turbulence.

Defence Minister Raul Jungmann insisted on Thursday that the deployment was necessary "to stop the barbarity" of the riots.

"We had no choice in order to prevent casualties among public servants and the destruction of public heritage," Mr Jungmann said.

THREATENED PRESIDENCY

He doesn't have the minimum conditions for this. But how the end will come for his government is the question.

'' POLITICAL ANALYST ANDRE CESAR, on President Michel Temer staying in office.

Mr Temer nevertheless defended his government in a video posted on social media, saying "Brazil did not stop and will not stop" despite the recent tension.

Conservative former vice-president Temer stepped up to replace leftist President Dilma Rousseff last year after she was impeached for illegally manipulating government accounts. She said the charges were politically trumped up. Now Mr Temer faces impeachment requests from his own political rivals.

Leftist groups and trade unions organised the protests a week after Mr Temer was placed under a corruption probe. They are demanding his resignation and an end to austerity reforms centred on cuts to the pension system.

Stuck in deep recession for two years, Latin America's biggest economy is just showing signs of returning to growth, although unemployment stands at nearly 14 per cent.

But Mr Temer has been on the ropes since allegations that he attempted to pay hush money to a jailed ally. He has said he did nothing wrong and will not resign.

Lawmakers have filed 16 separate demands for impeachment in congress. Mr Temer also faces a separate challenge in the Supreme Electoral Court.

Mr Andre Cesar, a political analyst at Hold consultancy, said Mr Temer "cannot survive".

He said: "He doesn't have the minimum conditions for this. But how the end will come for his government is the question."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2017, with the headline 'Troops pulled off Brasilia's streets'. Print Edition | Subscribe