More than 1 million Brazilians took to the streets yesterday to demand the ouster of President Dilma Rousseff over concerns about the economy and a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal involving the state-run oil company Petrobras.
The bribery scandal, according to recent testimony from a former oil executive, included taking multi-million dollar kickbacks from big construction and engineering firms in exchange for sweetheart oil concessions, with some of the money going to members of Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT). The scandal has apparently been going on for 18 years, and became Petrobras' modus operandi more than a decade ago, according to The AP media reports of last week's congressional testimony by former Petrobras executive Pedro Barusco.
More than 50 politicians are under investigation, according to Brazil’s attorney general. Rousseff, who was re-elected president just four months ago, has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the scandal, but Brazilians are questioning whether she did enough to clamp down on corruption while she served as Petrobras' chairwoman from 2003 to 2010.
Rousseff has said she was unaware of any corruption during her tenure at the firm.
In addition to yesterday's protests in some 83 cities across Brazil, there were simultaneous demonstrations by Brazilian communities living in Miami, New York and Boston.
Yesterday's protests were mostly peaceful, but the scale of the anti-government demonstrations were reminiscent of the 2013 mass protests against the Olympics and World Cup. Though analysts say it's unlikely Rousseff will be impeached, her second term is off to a difficult start amid a slumping economy, a polarized electorate and a mobilized opposition.
Tim Rogers, Fusion's senior editor for Latin America, was born a gringo to well-meaning parents, but would rather have been Nicaraguan. Also, he's the second hit on Google when you search for "Guatemalan superhero." Tim was a Nieman Fellow in 2014.