Brazilians protest against scandal-hit President

A demonstrator with a placard featuring Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Sao Paulo on Sunday. Protests across Brazil have kept the pressure on Ms Rousseff, who is grappling with a colossal bribery sc
A demonstrator with a placard featuring Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Sao Paulo on Sunday. Protests across Brazil have kept the pressure on Ms Rousseff, who is grappling with a colossal bribery scandal and a declining economy. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Businesses urge action by political leaders as crisis remains in flux, with Rousseff facing possibility of impeachment

RIO DE JANEIRO • Tens of thousands of protesters have returned to the streets of cities across Brazil to express their ire against President Dilma Rousseff, reflecting a low ebb for her as she grapples with a colossal bribery scandal and a declining economy.

Still, the protests in some cities seemed to lack some of the urgency of huge demonstrations earlier this year calling for the ouster of Ms Rousseff, a leftist who won re-election just 10 months ago, suggesting tension may be easing somewhat on the President as congressional and business leaders try to prevent a political crisis from intensifying.

The protest in Rio de Janeiro had something of a carnival feel to it; some demonstrators wore bathing suits as they marched through the Copacabana district while trucks blared samba music. But there was also vitriol, with some urging the President to kill herself or calling on the military to take power.

"A military intervention may be illegal, but the people have to mobilise to make it legal," said accountant Rosangela Almeida, 53, arguing for action to prevent Brazil from suffering the economic disarray of neighbouring Venezuela.

Decades of dictatorship in Brazil left a legacy of hyperinflation and human rights abuses, but political analysts consider the chances of the armed forces returning to power through a coup to be negligible. Still, rising polarisation is feeding fears that political infighting could prolong an economic slump.

With an eye on the potential for upheaval if Ms Rousseff is forced to step down, businesses have been pressuring political leaders to prevent the crisis from worsening. In a notable move, the newspaper O Globo said in an editorial that manoeuvring against Ms Rousseff in Congress had gone too far.

The head of the Senate, Mr Renan Calheiros, expressed opposition last week to impeaching Ms Rousseff, while seeking to advance measures to restore confidence in the economy. The possibility that Ms Rousseff could draw greater support in the Senate bolstered hopes that she could fend off momentum for her impeachment in the Lower House.

Still, some observers warn that the political crisis remains in flux.

Prosecutors are expected to make more revelations in the bribery scandal involving Petrobras, the government-controlled oil company. The economy is expected to shrink this year and next. And Ms Rousseff's approval ratings remain mired in the single digits.

"Conciliation is advancing, but it's still based on a precarious equilibrium," said Mr Bernardo Mello Franco, a columnist for the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo.

Ms Rousseff insists she will not resign, even as her opponents hold her responsible for the scandal at Petrobras because the bribery scheme flourished while she was chairman of the company's board, before her election in 2010. She also faces legal challenges over whether her campaign received illicit contributions and if her government improperly used money from state banks to cover budget shortfalls. NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2015, with the headline 'Brazilians protest against scandal-hit President'. Print Edition | Subscribe