Dilma's risk

Impeachment crisis rattles divided Brazil

BRAZIL-CORRUPTION-PROTEST Workers' Party (PT) supporters demonstrate in support of President Dilma Rousseff in Belo Horizonte, Brazil | AFP
  • Rival street protests by Rousseff's enemies trying to drive her from power and supporters alleging an attempted coup have rocked Brazil over recent days, just months before it hosts the Olympics in August.

Brazil's deepening political crisis laid bare sharp divisions in Latin America's biggest economy on Saturday as President Dilma Rousseff risked impeachment and her once-popular predecessor "Lula" faced a criminal lawsuit.

Rival street protests by Rousseff's enemies trying to drive her from power and supporters alleging an attempted coup have rocked Brazil over recent days, just months before it hosts the Olympics in August.

On Friday, government supporters mobilised as pressure mounted on Rousseff, 68, and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, 70, whom she enlisted to try to save her leadership from a crisis aggravated by a deep recession.

"We won't accept a coup in this country," said the gray-bearded Lula, addressing a crowd of supporters from the back of a truck in Sao Paulo.

Rousseff had named Lula, a hero of the Latin American left, as her new chief of staff. But on Friday a high court judge barred him from taking up the post, despite government appeals. Rousseff and Lula are accused of conniving to put him in the cabinet post, which would make him immune from criminal prosecution over corruption allegations.

Friday also saw the first session of a new congressional committee charged with drawing up a motion on whether to impeach Rousseff over a separate corruption case.

Police said 270,000 people joined street rallies on Friday in support of Rousseff, while organisers put the turnout at 1.2 million. No major incidents were reported.

That was far fewer than the three million that police estimated at anti-government rallies last Sunday, but analysts said the counter-mobilization still helped the government.

"Previous attempts to get people out into the street to protest against impeachment had failed. That gave the impression that Brazilians supported impeachment or were neutral," said political scientist Luis Felipe Miguel of Brasilia University.

"Now we have seen that is not the case," he added, quoted by the state news service Agencia Brasil.

Recent polls showed however that Rousseff's popularity rating is about 10 percent and that 60 percent of Brazilians would support impeachment.

Rousseff is accused of manipulating government accounts to boost public spending during her 2014 re-election campaign, and again in 2015 to mask a deep recession.

The newly installed congressional impeachment committee said it expected to reach a decision within a month on whether to recommend removing the president.

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Topics : #Brazil

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