Brazilians took to the streets to defend social programs and the state oil company.
Pro-government supporters demonstrated across Brazil on Saturday to protest opposition lawmakers’ calls for impeaching President Dilma Rousseff.
Marches took place in nearly 30 cities across the country, organized by various social movements including the Movement of Landless Campesinos and the United Workers' Central, the largest union in Latin America.
Saturday’s protests were in response to calls for impeaching President Rousseff over allegations she manipulated the 2014 budget to increase public spending ahead of her reelection, violating Brazil's fiscal responsibility law. Rousseff has denied the charge.
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At the same time, marchers also spoke out against Rousseff’s own Finance Minister, Joaquim Levy, a former economist with the International Monetary Fund. Levy has pushed forward austerity policies cutting social programs, which the protesters see as a reversal of Rousseff’s campaign pledges.
On the streets of Sao Paulo, people could be heard yelling, “Levy, Out. I want the Dilma who I elected.”
According to local media reports, protesters also held banners defending Brazil’s state-owned oil company, Petrobras, which has come under scrutiny due to an ongoing bribery corruption scandal implicating the company.
Leading up to the Saturday’s demonstrations, union representative Douglas Izzo highlighted the importance of Petrobras in promoting Brazilian sovereignty, economic growth and employment.
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“We are taking to the streets to defend the heritage of the Brazilian people,” said Izzo. “We want Petrobras to belong to the Brazilian people, in order to finance services in health and education, rather than the interests of capital.”
The Brazilian Congress is currently considering a controversial piece of legislation that would take away Petrobras’ exclusive right to engage in offshore oil projects, opening the sector to foreign investment. Current law requires foreign companies to work with Petrobras on such projects.
In 2013, the Brazilian government passed an oil royalty law that diverts 75 percent of oil revenue toward education and the other 25 percent toward health care. As a result, the government hopes to increase public spending on education as a percentage of total gross domestic product from 6.4 percent in 2014 to 10 percent in 2024.
Despite long-standing efforts by opposition lawmakers to privatize Petrobras, Rousseff has said it will not happen on her watch.