TENSE TIMES: Police stand guard outside the presidential palace in the capital, Brasilia, on Thursday as demonstrators call for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff.
TENSE TIMES: Police stand guard outside the presidential palace in the capital, Brasilia, on Thursday as demonstrators call for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. Joedson Alves / AP

Brazil lurches into crisis: 'This is how coups start'

WITH the start of the Rio Olympics less than six months away, Brazil is teetering on the verge of political chaos.

After millions of people took to the streets this week to protest against corruption and demand the removal of President Dilma Rousseff, demonstrations by her supporters were planned yesterday for 45 cities across the country.

The Frente Brasil Popular - a network of trade unions and social organisations - said the protests would be in defence of democracy and the rights of the working class.

Opponents of the leftist President were infuriated on Wednesday when she appointed her predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as chief of staff.

President from 2003-11, Lula has been charged with accepting bribes from executives implicated in a $2.6 billion corruption scam at state oil company Petrobras.

His new job should offer immunity from prosecution, but a judge issued an injunction blocking the appointment and released a recording of a phone call between the President and Lula that indicated the appointment was to prevent his prosecution.

President Rousseff responded furiously to the release of the recording, saying: "This is how coups start."

In a further blow to the President, Brazil's congress elected a special commission on Thursday to examine the case to impeach her.

The Opposition accuses her of manipulating the government accounts in 2014 to hide budget holes during her re-election campaign and taking unauthorised loans from state banks to cover government spending.

The President's approval rating has slipped to 10% and her major coalition partner, the PMDB party, says it is weighing up whether to end the partnership.

As well, Brazil is in its worst recession in decades and there is widespread resentment about the money that has been spent on last year's football World Cup and this year's Olympics.

Protests have on occasion turned violent - an unnerving prospect for Olympic organisers hoping for a united and welcoming country during the Games.



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