Brazilians marched across the country yesterday, protesting against corrupt politicians and what they said were attempts by Congress to shut down a huge anti-graft probe.
Dressed overwhelmingly in the green and yellow national colours, thousands of demonstrators filled a beachside avenue in Rio’s posh Copacabana, while several thousand gathered outside Congress in the capital Brasilia.
Another protest was held in the country’s financial powerhouse Sao Paulo, as well as in scores of smaller cities, according to organisers.
The peaceful crowds expressed support for Operation Car Wash, a probe that has uncovered mass embezzlement by politicians and top executives at state oil company Petrobras and other businesses.
“Car Wash — protected by the people,” read one placard in Rio carried by a man wrapped in the Brazilian flag.
Demonstrators were furious at a vote earlier this week by the lower house of Congress — where many deputies are themselves suspects in criminal probes — to weaken a long-planned anti-corruption bill and to intimidate judges and prosecutors.
The vote, which took place while most Brazilians slept during the early hours of Wednesday, prompted prosecutors from the Car Wash case to threaten resignation.
In Rio, protesters lauded Sergio Moro, the judge heading Car Wash cases, chanting: “Moro, fighter for the Brazilian people.”
Latin America’s biggest country has been in turmoil all year. Car Wash revelations have already brought down major political and business figures, the economy is in its worst recession for decades, and in August the leftist president Dilma Rousseff was impeached and replaced by centre right veteran Michel Temer, triggering nationwide tensions.
The protesters’ main villain yesterday was the powerful Senate speaker, Renan Calheiros, who this week attempted to hold a lightening quick vote to confirm the lower house’s controversial corruption bill, but had to retreat.
Calheiros also faced a ruling this week by the Supreme Court that he must stand trial on multiple corruption charges.
“Renan out!” and “Lock Renan up!” the crowd chanted in Brasilia, where they performed a mock funeral march with a coffin inscribed “corruption.”