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More than a million protest Brazil's Rousseff

March 15, 2015

Mass rallies calling for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff have swept dozens of cities in Brazil. Demonstrators accuse the president of knowing about the corruption at state oil company Petrobras.

A general view of thousands of people during a protest against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 15 March 2015. Anti-government rallies in cities across Brazil have drawn tens of thousands of people into the streets to protest the administration of President Dilma Rousseff and demand her impeachment. Rousseff, who started her second four-year term in January, is under fire over Brazil's stagnating economy, rising energy costs and a corruption scandal dubbed Lava Jato (lit.: Car Wash) enveloping the state-controlled oil giant Petrobras, whose Board of Directors Dilma had chaired for eight years. EPA/SEBASTIAO MOREIRA +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S.Moreira

More than a million Brazilians marched peacefully on Sunday in over 50 cities around the country to demand the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and to protest government corruption. Sao Paolo, an opposition stronghold, saw the biggest gathering - hundreds of thousands of people gathered on a main avenue, while large numbers were also seen in the capital, Brasilia, and in Rio de Janeiro.

"We are here to express our indignation with the government-sponsored corruption and thieving and to demand Dilma's impeachment," one protestor told the Associated Press.

"She may not have been directly involved in the corruption at Petrobras, but she certainly knew about it, and for me that makes her just as guilty and justifies her ouster."

Petrobras scandal implicates top politicians

Much of the ire was focused on a kickback scheme at the state-run oil giant Petrobras, in which at least $800 million (762 million euros) was paid in bribes and other funds by the nation's biggest construction and engineering firms in exchange for inflated Petrobras contracts.

Several top executives are already in jail and the country's attorney general is investigating dozens of influential congressmen in connection with the corruption. When the corruption scheme began to unfold in 1997, Rousseff's party had not yet taken power - but she was formerly the chairwoman of Petrobras' board.

The president has not been implicated nor investigated, but two of her former chiefs of staff are caught up in the inquiry.

Sunday's protests were largely organized by ad-hoc right-leaning groups over social media, and followed significantly smaller pro-Rousseff protests on Friday. These protests are vastly different to the large anti-government protests in 2013, however, which cut across political, social, and economic lines.

Sunday's demonstrators were far more politically focused and came from social classes that had voted against Rousseff in her narrow re-election last October.

es/sb (AP, Reuters)