Protesters Take To The Streets In Brazil, In A Nationwide Call For Change
TESS VIGELAND, HOST:
Thousands of people took to the streets in Brazil today in a nationwide protest against the government.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Portuguese).
VIGELAND: That's from Rio de Janeiro's famous Copacabana beach, where protesters came out dressed in yellow and green, the colors of the Brazilian flag. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has been covering the demonstrations, and she joins us from Rio. Lulu, what are people saying and asking for?
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Well, we're seeing protests in 16 states across Brazil - tens of thousands of people coming out to protest the administration of Dilma Rousseff, the president. Her approval ratings right now are in the single digits - around eight percent, if you can believe it. So there is just widespread discontent here, especially in the midst of just a slew of corruption scandals that have engulfed the country. So let's listen to what a few people had to say today.
JOSE POSADA: I would like to see these people that are involved in corruption behind bars, to have a government that thinks about the people of Brazil.
MARCOS LIMA: Right now, we lost a little bit of the hope.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Jose Posada, a real estate broker, and Marcos Lima, a businessman. There is a loss of hope as was mentioned, but also, as you might have heard, a lot of anger about the direction Brazil is headed.
VIGELAND: Yeah, and these protests and the general dissatisfaction come at a really bad time for Brazil, right?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, that's right. You have this massive corruption scandal at the state oil company and its engulfed almost everyone, both heads of congress have been implicated. The head of the biggest company in Brazil called Odebrecht - he's under arrest. The list just goes on and on. And, of course, this all comes at a time when the economy is slowing down - you know, after a decade of record growth here and a feeling that, you know, things were finally turning around for them, that this was a prosperous countries. Millions had been lifted out of abject poverty.
Now, there is near recession, inflation; the currency has devalued some 24 percent against the dollar just this year - terrible, terrible economic news. And because of the corruption scandal, no one has any political capital to address the very real problems.
VIGELAND: Well, if that's the case, then what is President Rousseff trying to do to deal with the situation?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is exactly the issue. There's a feeling that she is no longer leading the country. Her enemies in congress and, frankly, at this point even her allies, are now out to get her she says. She has been trying to push through austerity measures to gain favor with the international markets to get the economy moving. But that has alienated, you know, her leftist base. And because of the political turmoil, as I mentioned, she hasn't even been able to do that very effectively. So she's essentially stuck a year into her second term and she's now being seen already as a lame duck.
VIGELAND: Well, and I know there have been calls for impeachment as well. How likely is that though?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's the million-dollar question - or the billion-dollar question, actually, (laughter) because we're talking about the Brazilian economy.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's what many people are calling for. Polls show an overwhelming support for it among the public. And even among the poorest members of the public, which are usually the people that support Dilma Rousseff - so a big turnaround for her. But you can't just impeach someone because you don't like them. So far there's been no proof that she has acted criminally or was involved in the Petrobas scandal. And so therefore, while it is the subject of discussion, while it clearly is something that the public wants, so far it isn't happening.
VIGELAND: That's NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Rio. Lulu, thank you.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.
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