Peaceful protests against corruption and the “liberal” economic policies of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s administration marked Wednesday’s celebrations of Brazil’s Independence Day, overshadowing the traditional military parades.
Protests demanding an improvement in the living conditions of Brazil’s millions of poor and indigent were staged in about twenty states, parallel to the display of infantry, armored vehicles and Air Force exhibitions.
The biggest marches, called Shout of the Excluded, were organized by the Catholic Church, the CUT labor union federation and the MST landless movement in Brasília and other major cities, including São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza, Recife and Belém.
Disgusted marchers protested against unemployment, high interest rates, the government’s orthodox economic policy and the lack of an agrarian reform program, as well as the multiple corruption cases involving President Lula’s aides, Congress, the ruling Workers Party that has sparked Brazil’s worst political crisis since 1992.
In Brasília, Lula presided over a parade of 6,000 servicemen soldiers and a concentration of 30,000 civilians, far fewer than the 50,000 authorities were expecting.
President Lula arrived in an open convertible amid both applause and jeers from the crowd and watched the parade next to guest of honor Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s President.
The President and his 24 cabinet ministers watched the parade from a reviewing stand far away from protesters and signs calling for the president’s ouster. Shortly before the end of the parade, Lula left without saying a word avoiding the press.
The military display was followed by a protestors’ colorful fun-mocking march with some of them dressed in jail uniforms and masks caricaturing some of the characters allegedly involved in the government and Congress corruption ring.
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