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Brazilians rally in support of President Dilma Rousseff

Thousands have demonstrated across Brazil against the potential impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. The protests came as her ally, former President Lula Silva, made progress in his own corruption battle.

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Brazil’s Rousseff battles to stay in power

Brazilians in 17 states and the nation's capital, Brasilia, took to the streets in defense of beleaguered President Dilma Rousseff. At least 25,000 to 30,000 turned out in Brasilia alone, police told the AFP news agency. Many among them were waving the red flags of the ruling Workers' Party or banners stating "There will not be a coup."

The rallies were part of a concerted effort by the president to show her popularity in the face of impeachment proceedings. Rousseff is accused of manipulating government accounts to disguise the depth of Brazil's recession during her 2014 re-election campaign. Her supporters had gathered for similar rallies before.

She could lose power as soon as May if the lower house of Congress were to approve her impeachment. Its preliminary impeachment commission is expected to begin deliberations next week before making a recommendation mid-April. The recommendation would be nonbinding but still set the tone for a vote shortly after by the lower house, where two-thirds are needed to launch an impeachment trial in the Senate.

Rousseff has vowed not to step down or to give in to her opponents' demands.

Rousseff ally Lula to rush to the rescue

Rousseff's chief ally in the spiraling political crisis, ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, widely known as Lula, coincidentally won a major court battle just as protesters gathered across the nation, removing him from the jurisdiction of Judge Sergio Moro, who has been accusing Lula of bribery charges related to the state oil company, Petrobras. The case has now been transferred to the high court instead.

Rousseff is counting on the well-connected ex-president to reorganize her flailing administration and lead the fight against her impeachment in Congress.

The events take place as Rio de Janeiro is preparing to host the Summer Olympics in five months while still dealing with an outbreak of the Zika virus, which has been linked to causing a rare birth defect in pregnant women.

ss/jr (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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