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Brazilians rally in large numbers to support President Rousseff

People demonstrate in support of President Dilma Rousseff in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 31, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Tens of thousands of people rally across Brazil in support of President Dilma Rousseff, amid ongoing calls for her impeachment.

Protesters took to the streets in 31 cities, including the capital, Brasilia, on Thursday. According to police, at least 25,000 to 30,000 people marched in Brasilia alone.

Rousseff will be removed from power later this month if Brazil’s lower house of parliament votes for her impeachment. Her opponents accuse her of manipulating government accounts for her own benefit during her 2014 re-election campaign. She denies the charge.

The president said on Thursday that her opponents were manipulating the country’s young democracy.

“During the process that the whole of Latin America lived through in the 60s, 70s and 80s, the form of coup was a military intervention. Now it is a form of hidden coup, behind apparent democratic processes. They use bits of democracy, but not democracy as a whole,” she said.

People demonstrate in support of President Dilma Rousseff  in Porto Alegre, Brazil, March 31, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Her supporters in the capital held banners with the writing “There will not be a coup” on them. Around 5,000 people gathered in Rio de Janeiro and held a large banner with the word “Democracy” printed on it.

A 50-year-old shopkeeper said he attended a demonstration in Sao Paulo because “the opposition wants to push Dilma from power to end the people’s government.”

Rousseff was first elected president of Brazil in 2010. Her government is now facing, among other challenges, many economic road bumps, including high inflation, unemployment, recession and a financial deficit.

A graft scandal involving the country’s state oil company Petrobras has also caused trouble for the 68-year-old Brazilian leader, who headed the company before she took office as president in 2010.

She has also poured oil on the fire by appointing former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as her chief of staff. Silva is himself implicated in the Petrobras corruption scandal, and his appointment by Rousseff has been interpreted as an attempt to grant him immunity from prosecution.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled to remove Lula’s case from the jurisdiction of a lower court judge and to move it to the top court. The ruling came after crusading anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro released a wiretapped conversation purportedly between Rousseff and Lula that is said to have provided evidence that the president tried to protect Lula with the appointment.

It is not clear how the conversations of the president of Brazil were eavesdropped on. Moro has made a written apology for releasing the conversation and violating the right to privacy of the purported individuals in the conversation.

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