Troops pull out of Brazil capital; president under pressure

By The Canadian Press
May 24, 2017 - 4:15pm

BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil's president on Thursday cancelled an order that sent soldiers into the streets of the capital, following criticism that the move was excessive and merely an effort to maintain power amid increasing calls for his resignation.

In a decree published in the Official Diary, President Michel Temer revoked the order issued a day earlier, "considering the halt to acts of destruction and violence and the subsequent reestablishment of law and order." On Thursday afternoon, soldiers began to leave their posts in Brasilia, the Defence Ministry said.

The troops were deployed late Wednesday following a day of clashes between police and protesters demanding Temer's ouster amid allegations against him of corruption. Fires broke out in two ministries and several were evacuated. Protesters also set fires in the streets and vandalized government buildings.

Images in national media, meanwhile, appeared to show police officers firing weapons, and the Secretariat of Public Security said it was investigating. In all 49, people were injured, including one by a bullet. The person was shot in the jaw and was sedated and in serious condition Thursday evening, the Secretariat of Health said.

Temer's popularity has been in a freefall since he took office a little more than a year ago after his predecessor was impeached and removed. Some Brazilians consider his presidency illegitimate because of the way he came to power, and his efforts to pass a series of economic reforms to cap the budget, loosen labour laws and reduce pension benefits have made him even more unpopular. In addition, several of his advisers have been linked to Brazil's big corruption investigation, known as Operation Car Wash.

As part of the Car Wash probe, Temer now faces allegations that he endorsed the paying of hush money to a former lawmaker who has been jailed for corruption. Brazil's highest court is investigating him for alleged obstruction of justice and involvement in passive corruption after a recording seemed to capture his approval of the bribe. Temer denies wrongdoing.

Many Brazilians want him out one way or another and are calling for him to resign or be impeached. The demands for his resignation have heated up since the release of the recording and came to a head in Wednesday's protest, when 45,000 demonstrators took to the streets.

Opposition lawmakers have submitted several requests in Congress for Temer's impeachment. On Thursday, the Brazilian bar association submitted another such request in a move that carried special symbolic weight because the association is not partisan.

The use of troops in the nation's capital is particularly fraught in Brazil, where many still remember the repression of the country's 1964-1985 military dictatorship. Images of soldiers patrolling Brasilia increased the impression that Temer is struggling to maintain control and further ratcheted up pressure on him.

Temer defended the decision as necessary to restore order after Wednesday's violence and said it was within his rights.

On Thursday evening, he posted a video on social media aimed at reassuring Brazilians that the government's work is continuing despite the upheaval, citing a series of measures passed this week by Congress.

"Brazil did not stop and will not stop," he said in the brief message. "The demonstrations happened with excesses, but deputies and senators kept working for Brazil."

Some observers are concerned that if Temer does manage to stay in office, the continuing political crisis will grind Brazil's government to a halt just as the country tries to drag the economy out of a deep recession.

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Associated Press photographer Eraldo Peres reported this story in Brasilia and AP writer Sarah DiLorenzo reported from Sao Paulo. AP writer Mauricio Savarese in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

Eraldo Peres And Sarah Dilorenzo, The Associated Press

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Thu, 25 May 2017 18:43:53 -0400

Correction: Snowy Plover Chick story