Supporters of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff have called for mass street rallies in her defense as a political crisis threatens to drive her from office. Corruption allegations have led to calls for her resignation.
Rousseff called for her supporters to come on to the streets in more than 30 cities Friday as a chance for a show of strength after anti-government demonstrations were held in many parts of the country.
The largest rallies in support of the government were expected in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, called by Rousseff's Workers' Party, the major CUT union and other groups.
"Shaking Brazilian society on the basis of untruths, shady maneuvers, and much-criticized practices violates constitutional guarantees and creates very serious precedents," Rousseff said as she defended herself against impeachment and allegations of corruption. "Coups begin that way."
Brazil's political crisis is deepening after a judge blocked the appointment of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as chief of staff to his successor amidst heated clashes.
The judge in Brasilia issued a ruling suspending da Silva's appointment over allegations that the president was trying to protect her predecessor from corruption charges by giving him ministerial immunity. Those suspicions were corroborated by a wire-tapped phone call of a conversation between the two politicians discussing such a defense strategy.
Lula, who led Brazil from 2003 to 2011, is charged with accepting luxury properties as bribes from executives implicated in a multi-billion-dollar corruption scam at state oil company Petrobras.
Demonstrators take part in a protest against President Dilma Rousseff in front of the national congress in Brasilia.
Public anger growing against president
The action came as riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades to keep at bay an angry crowd demanding Rousseff's resignation late Thursday.
The standoff inflamed tensions between Brazil's executive and judiciary branches, as the Petrobras probe reached Rousseff's inner circle and a congressional impeachment committee was named on Thursday.
Calls for Rousseff's impeachment have centered on allegations - unrelated to the Petrobras scandal - that she broke budget rules to boost spending as she campaigned for re-election in 2014.
Attorney General Jose Eduardo Cardozo vowed to appeal the injunction against da Silva joining the government. Cardozo claimed the ruling was made by a partisan judge.
Judiciary defends anti-corruption judge
Sergio Moro, the federal judge overseeing the Petrobras investigation, had made public the wire-tapped phone call between Rousseff and Lula that suggested she appointed him to the new post to save him from arrest. As Rousseff and her allies attacked the federal judge's impartiality, his colleagues rose to his defense.
"Those telephone conversations provide evidence of obstructing the investigation, part of a treacherous underground war waged in the shadows, far from the courts," wrote 13 federal prosecutors on Moro's task force in a public statement.
In a written statement late on Thursday, Lula pleaded for justice, saying his rights had been trampled by the unlawful revelation of his private conversations.
The Petrobras corruption probe has unearthed the ties between Brazil's political class and business elite. That has led to widespread anger as the economy is mired in the worst recession since the 1930s, with rising inflation and daily announcements of layoffs adding to people's fears, anger and desperation.
jar/jm (AP, Reuters, AFP)