Dilma Rousseff’s future as president of Brazil was cast into further doubt as millions of protesters, wearied by scandal and recession, staged some of the largest rallies in the country’s modern history.
Brazilians demonstrated peacefully for Rousseff’s ouster in cities throughout the country on Sunday, with some estimates counting more than 3 million people on the streets. Sao Paulo recorded its largest political rally on record, according to polling firm Datafolha. In the capital Brasilia, some 100,000 people marched toward Congress, expressing their support for the anti-corruption blitz that has put several high-profile executives and politicians behind bars.
Many Brazilians say they have had enough of corruption revealed by the two-year investigation known as Lava Jato, or Carwash in English, that has paralyzed Congress and deepened the worst recession in over a century. Sunday’s protests could prompt more legislators to abandon the ruling coalition and vote for Rousseff’s ouster, according to Paulo Calmon, a political science professor at the University of Brasilia.
“We’re walking in the middle of a perfect storm, with a high level of uncertainty,” Calmon said.
“The feeling is that we’re going to have some kind of definition in coming months or even weeks, which could be removing Rousseff from office or some other political arrangement. That’s what makes 2016 different from 2015.”
After being stalled in Congress for months, the impeachment proceedings are expected to resume in coming days when the Supreme Court decides on guidelines for the lower house to follow.
Some allies have already begun to distance themselves from Rousseff, as her party gets drawn deeper into the corruption scandal. The March 12 national convention of her largest allied party, known as the PMDB, ended with the threat to fully break from the ruling coalition next month. Earlier in March, the smaller Brazilian Socialist Party joined the opposition.
Rousseff, who on Friday said she hadn’t given up and wouldn’t resign, made no public appearances on Sunday. Instead, she issued a statement in which she said that the peaceful nature of protests shows “the maturity of a country that knows how to live with diverging opinions.”
Financial markets in recent weeks welcomed the possibility that Brazil’s political turmoil could usher in a new government that’s better equipped to revive the economy, which is expected to sink 3.3 percent in 2016 after contracting 3.8 percent last year. The real is up 12 percent this month, the best performance among world currencies, and the Ibovespa climbed to the highest level in seven months. (Courtesy Bloomberg)