By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – More than one million people took to the streets in Brazil to protest against corruption and the government of President Dilma Rousseff on Sunday. From the capital, Brasília, to Latin America’s economic hub, São Paulo, to coastal cities, such as Recife and Salvador, crowds of people wearing the colors of Brazil’s flag, yellow and green, gathered to sing the national anthem and criticize the current administration’s policies.
Terezinha Costa came to Avenida Paulista in São Paulo with her husband and two children. Costa said that she and thousands like her took to the streets to demand change. “I don’t want the impeachment of the President,” Costa stated, “but like the PT likes to boast ‘never in this country’ has there been so much corruption and so many [people] stealing our [public] money.”
Unlike Costa, however, many of those in Sunday’s protests demanded that Rousseff step down or be impeached, not realizing that if that happens the vice-president, Michel Temer, would take her place. “If we impeach Dilma, don’t we remove the entire government?” asked Juliana Bastos, an advertising major student at a local university in the city.
In São Paulo, ‘Fora Dilma’ (Get out Dilma) and ‘Chega de Corrupção’ (End of Corruption) signs along with Brazilian flags were held high above the sea of people who were not discouraged by the rain which insisted on falling during the rally. And while the military police estimated the crowd at Avenida Paulista at one million, polling companies said there were no more than 250,000 at any one time.
In other cities, the numbers were not as high, but were still significant. In Brasília an estimated 45,000 protesters took to the streets. In Porto Alegre, official numbers by police are that more than 100,000 people gathered to protest.
The marches seen on Sunday, March 15th, across the country were reminiscent of protests seen in the middle of 2013. But unlike the 2013 rallies, where demonstrators protested against everything from education, to health, to public transportation tariffs, Sunday’s protests were focused on a single issue: corruption during the Rousseff administration.
Another big difference was that 2013 protests usually ended in violence, while during Sunday’s marches no major violent incidences were reported.
Surprised by the number of Sunday’s turnout President Rousseff called an emergency meeting with cabinet members during the afternoon and in the early evening, Justice Minister, José Eduardo Cardozo, and General Secretary of the Presidency, Miguel Rossetto, went on national TV and radio to address the protests.
Cardozo stated that the Rousseff administration respected and supported any and every type of peaceful demonstration, in line with the democratic condition of the country. The Justice Minister said that the government would announce measures to combat corruption in the coming days, a campaign promise made by Rousseff during October 2014’s Presidential elections.
Rossetto stated that while protests were accepted, talks of coups and impeachment went not only against the current administration but also against democracy itself.
As the two cabinet members spoke, residents in cities like São Paulo, Brasília and Rio de Janeiro, opened up their windows and banged on pots and pans as a sign of protest.