Thousands of Brazilians stage rallies to support president

Thousands of Brazilians stage rallies to support president

HomeAmericasBrazil Sat Mar 14, 2015 2:7AM

Tens of thousands of people have taken to streets across Brazil to show their support for President Dilma Rousseff and the country’s biggest company, scandal-hit oil giant Petrobras.

The Friday protests, which were held in 24 state capitals in the South American country, came ahead of anti-Rousseff rallies scheduled for Sunday.

According to the organizers, some 150,000 people participated in the rallies around the country. The police, however, put the number at 32,000.

“I am for Dilma, in defense of democracy, but I am also against corruption,” said Gerson Tadeu Conti, a protester outside the headquarters of Petrobras in Sao Paulo.

The protesters also called for political and agrarian reforms and an end to corruption.

In the city of Rio de Janeiro, a number of speakers, including student representatives, trade unionists, oil workers, and bank employees, took turns to address the crowd from the top of a truck in the city center.

“I defend Petrobras because it’s our heritage. But I also want politicians to be able to manage without corruption because it affects the image of our country,” Rubens Pessanha, an oil sector worker, said.

The corruption probe into Petrobras and dozens of senior politicians has rattled the Rousseff administration for months.

Though nobody has yet been convicted, dozens of political figures and former Petrobras executives are under suspicion over a scheme facilitating corruption and money laundering that saw an estimated USD 3.8 billion creamed off inflated contracts over a decade.

It was reported last month that the chief executive of Petrobras and other executives of the Brazilian company had stepped down in the wake of the scandal.

Prosecutors have reportedly uncovered documents on some USD 800 million in illegal funds such as bribes, kickbacks, and price-fixing.

Rousseff, who served as the head of Petrobras before taking office as president in 2010, faces criticism for failing to take action against corruption at the oil company during her tenure and later as the Brazilian leader.

She has denied any knowledge of the multi-billion-dollar bribery and kickback scheme, and backed the ongoing Petrobras probe.

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