Brazilians took to the streets for the second time in a month to protest the country’s biggest corruption scandal and government austerity measures aimed at preserving the nation’s investment grade rating.
Demonstrators marched in cities throughout the nation, with the biggest gathering occurring at Avenida Paulista, the heart of Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo. The state’s military police estimated attendance at 275,000 people. Thousands more thronged Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach, all wearing green and canary yellow shirts as 3,000 joined a protest in Belo Horizonte.
Overall turnout was smaller than March 15 when one million Brazilians participated in the Sao Paulo street protest alone. In the capital Brasilia on Sunday, only 25,000 people marched, according to an estimate from the Military Police, about half as many as last month. Globo news service G1’s website reported demonstrations in 170 cities nationwide.
The lower number of protesters could help ease some of the pressure on President Dilma Rousseff as she attempts to implement a series of austerity measures and revive growth, amid a plunge in popularity, according to Rafael Cortez, a political analyst with Tendencias Consultoria.
“A positive point for the government is that debate over impeachment should lose force in the political agenda, because there isn’t an important number of people mobilizing in favor,” Cortez said by phone from Sao Paulo. “While polls show a majority are in favor of impeachment, that majority isn’t in the streets.”
Rousseff, who just returned from the Summit of the Americas in Panama, monitored the demonstrations in Brasilia without issuing a statement. Rousseff’s press office declined to comment when contacted by email and phone.
Sunday’s smaller turnout could be attributed in part to poor organization including lack of clarity about times and locations of demonstrations, according to Thiago de Aragao at Arko Advice. The marches last month and Sunday were organized mostly through social media by an assortment of groups with a variety of demands that included the return to a military government.
“The lower turnout by no means signals less dissatisfaction with the government,” De Aragao, a partner and director of strategy at the Brasilia-based political risk company, said by phone. “There is lethargy from parts of society that doesn’t feel compelled to participate with the same intensity.”
After last year’s record budget deficit, Rousseff’s fiscal consolidation plan is facing fierce opposition within Congress and dissent within her ruling coalition amid the Car Wash investigation of state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA.
Rousseff’s approval rating continued at a record-low 13 percent, according to a April 9-10 poll conducted by Datafolha. The survey of 2,834 people had a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.
Of those surveyed, 63 percent said that they favored the start of impeachment procedures against Rousseff given the information available on an alleged scheme to channel Petrobras funds to political parties, including the ruling Workers’ Party, known as PT.
The opposition PSDB party issued a statement that said her government is “imposing on society the worst equation: recession with high inflation, high interest rates and cutting investments in essential areas like health and education.”
Back in Copacabana, a man standing atop a sound truck tried to rally a chant of “Tomorrow it will be bigger” from the crowd.
“Impeachment is legal, and who is going to come in to replace Dilma isn’t important,” he said. “We’re saying enough PT, enough of the fallacy of Lula,” referring to Rousseff’s mentor and predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who served consecutive terms as president through 2010.
Three people carried a banner that said “Constitutional Military Intervention.”
Joining the crowd on Rio’s famous beach under cloudless skies was Marina Pereira, 32, saleswoman of small-production coffee, attired in a green shirt with “Brazil” written in sequins, and a flag tied around her head. Corruption and a reduction of government investments spurred her to join the march, she said.
“I think it’s difficult for impeachment to come from this, but maybe at least conscientiousness, people being more vigilant,” she said. “Politicians have to really start doing their jobs. We’re not going to stop until things start to function.”