By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Brazil on Sunday, December 5th, to protest the anti-corruption bill approved by the Chamber of Deputies last week. According to protesters, the bill was changed by Congressional representatives to weaken the Lava Jato (Carwash) investigations.
“Those representatives in Brasilia are supposed to be working in our favor, for us, not benefiting themselves,” said Gerson Silva taking part in the protest in São Paulo’s Avenida Paulista.
The anti-corruption bill approved in the Lower House last week included only four of the ten measures in the original proposal, signed by over two million Brazilians. There is an overall feeling among the Brazilian population that the country’s Congress is once again trying to save their own members by including in the bill that the anti-corruption laws should be applied only to future irregularities and not past transgressions.
In all, authorities say that at least 75,000 people demonstrated in at least 82 cities throughout the country on Sunday. For one of the organizers of the movement, Brasil Livre, there was close to 500,000. Among the groups organizing the events were Movimento Brasil Livre (Free Brazil) and Vem Pra Rua (Come to the Streets).
São Paulo’s famous Avenida Paulista was overtaken by hundreds of Brazilians calling for the ousting of Senate President Renan Calheiros, who tried to get the bill approved quickly in the Upper House.
In Rio de Janeiro, several thousand people gathered in Copacabana beach, wearing yellow and green t-shirts and carrying posters against corruption. The demonstrators’ main criticisms were aimed at Chamber President, Rodrigo Maia and Senator Calheiros.
In Brasilia, according to organizers, nearly 15,000 protesters occupied the Congressional lawn, but unlike the violent demonstrations seen last week, Sunday’s march did not register any conflicts between police and protesters.
President Michel Temer, on the Presidency’s official blog, praised the non-violent protests, noting that legislators should always be sensitive to what the population seeks. “Thousands of citizens expressed their ideas in a peaceful and orderly manner. This exemplary behavior demonstrates civic respect that further strengthens our institutions. It is necessary that the powers of the Republic always be attentive to the demands of the Brazilian population,” stated the Presidency.