Thousands in Brazil rally to demand president's impeachment

RIO DE JANEIRO: Thousands of Brazilians marched Sunday to demand that Congress impeach President Dilma Rousseff, whose government is plagued by an overwhelming corruption scandal and a dismal economy.

The protests were held in dozens of places including the capital of Brasilia and the opposition stronghold of Sao Paulo, but were considerably smaller than demonstrations earlier this year challenging Rousseff and her ruling Workers' Party.

One difference this time around is that impeachment proceedings have already begun against Brazil's president. Lower House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, a bitter rival of Rousseff, introduced a petition to impeach the president earlier this month. The Supreme Court suspended the discussion temporarily while it reviews how Congress formed the commission to debate the measure.

 Many people at the protests wore Brazil's national soccer jersey. Others held banners condemning Rousseff's party for a kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras that has entangled the country's most influential figures, from one of its wealthiest bankers to a construction scion to leaders of Congress.

In Brasilia, protesters staged a mock funeral for Rousseff and burned dolls representing her mentor and predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Sao Paulo attracted the biggest crowd, with about 40,000 people, according to the reputable pollster Datafolha. A long green-and-yellow banner carried along the city's main avenue read "Impeachment Now."

The demonstrations were held by the same right-leaning groups that produced massive turnouts earlier this year to demand Rousseff's impeachment when the process hadn't started.

Although most complaints were related to the corruption scandal, Rousseff is facing impeachment on the argument her administration broke fiscal laws by using state-run banks to fill budget gaps. The country is also in a deep recession with forecasts saying growth domestic product should contract by 3.5 percent in 2015.

Analysts say the protests could play a role in swaying votes in the House of Representatives if the impeachment proceedings are first okayed by a legislative commission. The request to impeach her needs to be approved by two thirds of the 513-member legislative body to advance to the Senate.