SAO PAULO (AP) — Protesters massed in Brazil's largest city Sunday to call for the president to be removed from office and express outrage at a host of his policies, while the embattled leader tried to head off some of their criticism.
President Michel Temer has suffered a continual drip of scandal and high-level resignations since he took office six months ago. But on Friday a scandal touched him directly for the first time amid allegations he abused his power to do a personal favor for one of his Cabinet ministers. He denied the allegation.
The scandal could scuttle Temer's ability to pass a series of austerity policies that he says are necessary to pull Latin America's largest economy out of a deep recession — and they are a threat to his presidency. Opposition politicians have promised to introduce measures in Congress calling for his impeachment.
On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered on a main avenue in Sao Paulo to call for just that. Representatives from political parties and social movements also protested against the government's proposal to cap spending to rein in the deficit, which many fear will result in deep cuts to education and health care.
Others were protesting rampant corruption in politics, criticizing not just the current administration, while some complained about the lack of suitable housing. One group held up a banner with a drawing of Fidel Castro, paying homage to the Cuban revolutionary leader who died Friday night.
Many criticized the way Temer came to power. He was the vice president to President Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached and removed from office earlier this year, and protesters said that meant he had no mandate to pass widespread changes in government programs.
"I am here to fight against the root of all the current problems in Brazil: the impeachment without cause, the impeachment without merit," said Edva Aguilar, a retired nurse who said she wanted to see Rousseff's removal annulled and the Worker's Party politician returned to office.
But many protesters expressed disgust at all politicians. "So much money has been stolen," said Carlos Alberto, a butcher. "I'm against everyone who is involved in corruption."
Dozens of business executives and senior politicians have been charged and arrested this year in a spiraling corruption investigation that has shocked Brazilians with the scale of graft it has revealed.
Congress is considering anti-corruption legislation, but many Brazilians worry that one measure meant to crack down on off-the-books campaign slush funds might perversely be used to pardon politicians who engaged in the practice in the past. The controversy has reached such a pitch that Temer held a rare Sunday news conference to say he would not allow any amnesty for such practices.
"It was necessary to listen to the voice of the street," he told reporters, with Senate President Renan Calheiros and President of the House of Deputies Rodrigo Maia sitting on either side.
Associated Press photographer Andre Penner contributed to this report.