Streets of Brazil key to Rousseff’s future

epa05195227 A handout picture provided by Brazilian Presidency shows President Dilma Rousseff (3-L) giving a TV-broadcasted speech at the Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, 04 March 2016. Rousseff defended his predecessor and politic godfather, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was called to declare in the case of corruption related to state-ruled petroleum company Petrobras.  EPA/ROBERTO STUCKERT FILHO / PRESIDENCY HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES/NO ARCHIVES


Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s struggle for political survival is spilling into the streets, after the latest chapter in a sweeping corruption probe escalated tension in Latin America’s largest country.
Following police questioning on Friday of Rousseff’s predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva into allegations of bribes for favors, friends and foes of the government have started to mobilize in a race to galvanize public opinion. Both sides have already engaged in isolated clashes and are planning mass demonstrations in coming days.
From bars to soccer stadiums to social media, news that Brazil’s most iconic political figure was taken into police custody has hit on raw nerves in a society tattered by a two-year corruption probe and the worst recession in over a century. The outburst of public sentiment, which risks going violent, may end months of stalemate in Congress over her impeachment, said Gabriel Petrus, a political analyst at business consulting firm Barral M Jorge.
“It’ll be a trial in the streets with the people as a judge — legislators will have to listen,” said Petrus. “The next two weeks will be decisive in tilting the balance for or against Rousseff.”

Impeachment Request

Rousseff herself is not being investigated as part of the sweeping probe into a scheme of kickbacks at state oil company Petrobras, known as Carwash. The opposition-backed impeachment request filed in October of last year focuses largely on Rousseff’s alleged whitewashing of a gaping budget deficit. The president and Lula have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
The country’s top electoral court is, however, investigating whether some of the money from Petrobras made its way into her 2014 re-election campaign, a probe that could lead to the annulment of her mandate.

Nationwide Protests
How legislators and judges decide and whether Rousseff may even be forced to step down will depend to a large extent on public opinion and protests in coming days, said Andre Cesar, political analyst and founder of consulting firm Hold Assessoria Legislativa. “Any outcome is possible now.”
Rousseff critics have called for nationwide protests on March 13, with some of their leaders vowing to stage the largest anti-government protests yet. As of Sunday night, 150,000 people had signed up on a Facebook event’s page alone for the march in Sao Paulo. Others marches are scheduled in major cities throughout the country.

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