More than one million people marched through cities across Brazil to protest political corruption, a weak economy, and to call for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, in a showing that could accelerate efforts to remove her from office.
The protest in Sao Paulo was the largest ever recorded by polling firm Datafolha, surpassing even the 1984 rallies to demand direct presidential elections following the military dictatorship. Other cities also had record turnout, and the 100,000 people in capital city Brasilia was a considerably stronger showing than the four mass protests staged last year, months after Rousseff won re-election to a second term.
Demonstrators mostly clad in the green and yellow of Brazilâ€™s flag carried banners denouncing corruption and calling for Rousseffâ€™s ouster, and sang anti-government songs made famous on social media. The atmosphere was generally festive and free of the violence that some feared if there were confrontations between opposing political groups.
The peaceful nature of Sundayâ€™s protests shows â€œthe maturity of a country that knows how to live with diverging opinions,â€ and the freedom to protest should be respected, Rousseffâ€™s press office said in an emailed statement.
Ronaldo Cappellesso, a 45-year-old store owner in Brasilia, said it feels like the country has reached a tipping point, with many of his friends protesting for the first time. â€œFinally I feel that impeachment is actually going to happen,â€ he said. â€œAnything is better than what we have now.â€
Enough is Enough
Many Brazilians say they have had enough after enduring the worst recession in decades and a rolling corruption scandal known as Lava Jato, or Carwash in English, that has ensnared multiple politicians and business executives. The outpouring of public sentiment will be decisive for legislators debating whether to remain loyal to the president or abandon her ruling coalition, according to Paulo Calmon, a political science professor at the University of Brasilia.
â€œWeâ€™re walking in the middle of a perfect storm, with a high level of uncertainty,â€ Calmon said. â€œThe feeling is that weâ€™re going to have some kind of definition in the next months or even weeks, which could be removing Rousseff from office or some other political arrangement. Thatâ€™s what makes 2016 different than 2015.â€
Financial markets in recent weeks welcomed the possibility that Brazilâ€™s political crisis could be nearing a conclusion. The real is up 12 percent this month, the best performance among world currencies, and the Ibovespa climbed to the highest level in seven months.