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Brazil street protests demand Rousseff impeachment

President-Dilma-Rousseff

President-Dilma-Rousseff

Protesters took to the streets of Brazil Sunday, kicking off nationwide rallies expected to draw hundreds of thousands demonstrating against corruption and economic slowdown, and calling for President Dilma Rousseff to step down.

Organizers promised large demonstrations in the capital Brasilia, the 2016 Olympic host city Rio de Janeiro — where an Olympic bicycling test event had to be rerouted — and in the country’s financial capital Sao Paulo.

In all, some 200 towns and cities were expected to participate across Latin America’s biggest country.

In April, at least 600,000 people turned out against Rousseff and more than a million in March. The extent and intensity of the latest protests will be a key indicator of public support for calls from some in Congress for Rousseff’s impeachment.

The demonstration in Brasilia appeared to get off to a slow start Sunday, with only hundreds of people gathering in the first half hour, many wearing the Brazilian national football team colors and carrying placards calling “Dilma out” and “No to corruption.”

“I’ve come onto the street because I’m fed up, I want to show our dissatisfaction with the political scene and the country’s economy and government corruption,” said Luana Alves, 38, a civil servant.

Less than a year into her second term, Rousseff is on the ropes as the world’s seventh-largest economy slides into recession.

Austerity measures have replaced the economic go-go years fueled by Chinese demand for commodities, while a bribes and embezzlement probe centered on state oil company Petrobras has wreaked havoc in the country’s elite.

Prosecutors have brought charges against a Who’s Who of Brazilian movers and shakers, including the billionaire head of the global construction company Odebrecht and a navy admiral once tasked with overseeing a secret nuclear program.

Rousseff’s Workers’ Party has been badly shaken by the scandal and she has been tainted by association, even if not directly implicated.

A key figure in the fragile governing coalition, House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, defected in July and is considering whether to pull the trigger on calls in Congress for Rousseff’s impeachment.

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