Sao Paulo: Supporters of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called mass street rallies Friday in her defense, counter-attacking in a political crisis that threatens to drive her from office.
As police fired tear gas and stun grenades to keep at bay angry protesters demanding Rousseff's resignation late Thursday, her embattled left-wing support base mobilized.
They called rallies for Friday in more than 30 cities - a chance for a show of strength after three million people joined in anti-government demonstrations last weekend.
The rival protests followed a day of political drama as lawmakers on Thursday relaunched impeachment proceedings against Rousseff, 68.
The courts, meanwhile, blocked her bid to bring her powerful predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva into the cabinet.
Rousseff and her allies are fighting off corruption allegations and struggling with discontent over a deep recession.
The setbacks for the leftist leader came a day after new evidence in a corruption scandal: a wiretapped telephone call that pointed to connivance between Rousseff and her predecessor and mentor Lula.
Rousseff swore in Lula, 70, as her new chief of staff on Thursday.
A judge in Brasilia issued a ruling suspending that appointment over allegations that she was trying to protect him from corruption charges by giving him ministerial immunity.
That ruling was overturned late Thursday on appeal, but a separate federal court in Rio de Janeiro upheld another lawsuit blocking Lula's appointment.
Rousseff accused her enemies of mounting a "coup" against her.
Thursday's events plunged Rousseff's government into deeper uncertainty as she struggles with public anger, economic chaos and the splintering of her coalition in congress.
Lula and Rousseff have between them governed Brazil for the past 13 years. He presided over a boom, but political and economic crises are now gripping Latin America's biggest economy.
Anti-government protests erupted Wednesday when an anti-corruption judge leaked a wire-tapped phone call between Rousseff and Lula that suggested she appointed him to the new post to save him from arrest.
The biggest counter-demos on Friday were expected in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, called by Rousseff's Workers' Party, the major CUT union and other groups.
Organizers said in a statement the demonstrations aimed to fend off a "coup" and to defend Rousseff's social policies. The CUT in Sao Paulo vowed the rallies would be peaceful.
Brazil grabbed world headlines in 2013 when it was gripped by mass riots against corruption and increased transport costs.
Rousseff was scheduled to attend a ceremony in northeastern Brazil to unveil a new social housing project on Friday morning.
Brazil's lower house of Congress launched a committee Thursday to consider impeaching Rousseff over corruption accusations.
She is accused of manipulating the government's accounts to boost public spending during her 2014 re-election campaign.
The drive to impeach her was launched by the opposition in December but had been halted by the courts over procedural issues which were finally resolved late Wednesday.
"The putschists' shouting won't make me veer from my path or bring us to our knees," said Rousseff as she was heckled at Lula's swearing-in.
"If they violate the rights of the president, what will they do with those of the citizens? That is how coups start."
Lula, who led Brazil from 2003 to 2011, is charged with accepting a luxury apartment and a country home as bribes from executives implicated in a multi-billion-dollar corruption scam at state oil company Petrobras.
Investigators say construction companies conspired with Petrobras executives to overbill the oil giant to the tune of $2 billion, paying huge bribes to politicians and parties along the way.
Lula denies involvement in the scandal.
Published Date: Mar 18, 2016 11:08 am | Updated Date: Mar 18, 2016 11:08 am