Impeach-Rousseff Protesters Plan 500-Mile March on Brasilia

Impeach-Rousseff Protesters Plan 500-Mile March on Brasilia

By David Biller Yasmine Batista

10:09 PM BRT
April 13, 2015

One of the biggest organizers of anti-government protests will head to Brazil’s capital to directly pressure Congress to impeach President Dilma Rousseff.

Free Brazil Movement plans to march on Brasilia from the country’s biggest city to sustain the case for Rousseff’s removal after Sunday’s demonstrations drew less support than a month earlier. Another group, Come to the Street, has pledged to go to the capital to push for investigation of her.

“The phase of protests, as they have been occurring, has passed,” Renan Santos, the 31-year-old national coordinator of Free Brazil Movement, said by phone. “We are going to start setting the agenda for more political debate. The march is going to cause goosebumps in Brasilia every day we get closer.”

Rousseff’s popularity is hovering at a record low and the majority of Brazilians surveyed by Datafolha support the start of impeachment procedures. State-owned oil producer Petroleo Brasileiro SA is embroiled in the country’s biggest ever graft scandal and while Latin America’s biggest economy suffers from rising prices and joblessness amid stagnant growth.

Free Brazil Movement has set up a website to drum up support and track the progress of the march set to begin in Sao Paulo, where Sunday’s anti-government protests drew 275,000 demonstrators, or less than a third of March 15’s turnout. Organizers estimate that the so-called “March for Freedom” will arrive in Brasilia May 20, two months after a protest drew more than 1 million Brazilians to the streets.

‘Change Strategy’

The number of people attending Sunday’s protest was limited by the lack of clear messaging and objectives to rally support, and activists are certainly reconsidering their tactics, according to Andre Cesar, an independent political analyst.

“If these organizations want to attack the government, and at the margin try to remove the president, they need to change strategy,” Cesar said by phone from Brasilia. “Their approach can’t be just these street protests. Or there can be more protests, but with more content, which we’re not seeing.”

Rousseff’s approval rating continued at a record-low 13 percent, according to a April 9-10 poll conducted by polling firm Datafolha. The survey of 2,834 people had a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

‘Emotional Reaction’

Of those surveyed, 63 percent said they favored the start of impeachment procedures against Rousseff given the information available on an alleged scheme to channel funds from Petrobras to political parties, including the ruling Workers’ Party. Rousseff was chairman of Petrobras’ board from 2003 to 2010.

“Support for impeachment is an emotional reaction of revulsion,” Mauro Paulino, Datafolha’s executive director said in a phone interview. “The government personifies all the pessimism with the economy and corruption.”

The other group that rallied protestors on Sunday, named Come to the Street, is bringing activist groups together under one umbrella organization called the Brazilian Alliance of Democratic Movements, according to one of its leaders, Rogerio Chequer. Chequer, 47, will deliver a letter on the group’s behalf to Congress this week, he said.

“We are going to speak to Congress, without ties to any politician or party,” said Chequer, a former portfolio manager at Atlas Capital Management Llc. in White Plains, New York. The number of people attending the protests this month and last “is very significant and representative enough for our legislators to care about and attend to those demands.”

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