Nearly a million protest Brazil's president, economy, corruption

Updated: 2015-03-16 11:20


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Nearly a million protest Brazil's president, economy, corruption

A demonstrator takes part in a protest against Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro March 15, 2015. Protest organizers in dozens of cities across Brazil are planning marches to pressure Rousseff over unpopular budget cuts and a corruption scandal that has snared leaders of her political coalition. [Photo/Agencies]

RIO DE JANEIRO - Close to a million demonstrators marched in cities and towns across Brazil on Sunday to protest a sluggish economy, rising prices and corruption - and to call for the impeachment of left-wing President Dilma Rousseff.

The protests in the continent-sized country come as Brazil struggles to overcome economic and political malaise and pick up the pieces of a boom that crumbled about the time Rousseff took office in 2011.

Rousseff, now early into her second four-year term, is unlikely to face the impeachment proceedings called for by many opponents. A fifth year of economic stagnation and a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at state-run energy company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, has fueled their anger.

But for a president narrowly re-elected just five months ago, the protests are a sign of a polarized country increasingly unhappy with its leadership, especially as the hard-won gains of the recent boom begin to succumb to an economic slowdown.

The unexpectedly large demonstrations also promise to embolden opposition parties and restive allies, including the leaders of both houses of Congress, who are nominally part of Rousseff's ruling coalition, but nonetheless are hindering efforts to pass reforms intended to jump-start the economy.

In a press conference Sunday night, two members of Rousseff's cabinet recognized the rights of protesters, but downplayed the importance of the demonstrations, saying they were expressions of discontent by those defeated at the polls.

They also sought to discredit those who suggest impeachment. Miguel Rossetto, one of Rousseff's top aides, criticized what he called the "intolerance" of those opponents and likened their demands to coup efforts.

In a statement posted online Sunday, Aecio Neves, a centrist who was defeated by Rousseff in October, said the demonstrations marked a day when Brazilians "went to the streets to reunite with their virtues, their values and also with their dreams."

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