Mass rallies as Brazil political crisis deepens

Updated 18 March 2016

Mass rallies as Brazil political crisis deepens

Sao Paulo: Brazil faced a deepening political crisis and mass street protests Friday as opponents and backers of President Dilma Rousseff mobilized after lawmakers renewed efforts to drive her from office.
With Rousseff fighting an impeachment drive and financial markets apparently betting on a collapse of her government, her embattled left-wing support base vowed to take to the streets Friday.
Late Thursday, police in Brasilia fired tear gas and stun grenades to keep at bay angry protesters demanding her resignation.
The ongoing protests capped a day of political drama as lawmakers 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.
Scores of protesters camped overnight near the headquarters of the anti-Rousseff FIESP industry federation in Sao Paulo, vowing to stay put until she quits.
“We are going to protest like they did in Ukraine. There will be more of us tomorrow,” said one protester, Cristiane Galvao, 44, member of a group called Beloved Homeland Brazil.
“People are supporting us. They are bringing us water and food. We will stay here until Dilma falls.”
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 suggested Rousseff connived with her predecessor and mentor Lula to shield him from prosecution.
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.
Brazil’s lower house of Congress then launched a committee to draw up a motion on whether to impeach Rousseff over corruption accusations.
The committee has two weeks to present a motion to the house, which must vote on whether to launch an impeachment trial in the Senate. A decision to go forward with it requires a two-thirds majority.
Rousseff is accused of manipulating the government’s accounts to boost public spending during her 2014 re-election campaign.
She accused her enemies of mounting a “coup” against her.
The Sao Paulo stock exchange soared 6.6 percent on Thursday. Analysts said investors were anticipating the fall of the government.
Lula and Rousseff between them have 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.
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.
Lula denies involvement in the scandal.
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.
Big 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 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.
Recent polls show Rousseff’s popularity rating is down to about 10 percent and 60 percent of Brazilians would support her impeachment.
“I am angry at so much corruption. Things have to change,” said protester Adilio Brasil, 32, in Sao Paulo.
“We do not have health care, education and security, and we see these politicians robbing us.”


Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

Updated 50 min 4 sec ago

Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

  • Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures

ROME: Italy’s Muslims gathered in parks and public squares to celebrate the end of Ramadan, as many of the country’s mosques remained shut because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Islamic places of worship have been going slow on welcoming back congregations, despite an easing of a months-long lockdown, in order to guarantee social distancing and other preventive steps required under an agreement between Muslim communities and the government.

Mosques and prayer rooms will have to respect the same strict rules which have been imposed on Catholic churches. Halls will have to be sanitized before and after every prayer and a maximum of 200 people will be allowed, even in the biggest places of worship. For outdoor prayers a limit of 1,000 people has been set and each worshipper must be spaced at least one meter apart from the next. Those with a temperature above 37.5 degrees cannot enter.

Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures.

“Happy Eid Al-Fitr to all Muslims in Italy as they have two reasons to celebrate,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), said in a message. 

“This is not the only festivity closing the holy month of Ramadan, it matters even more to us all this year in Italy as it finally marks the return of our faithful to the mosque after several months of lockdown due to coronavirus. The Muslim faithful all over Italy now pray to God to accept the fasts, prayers and every good deed carried out during this holy  month and bring peace and blessing to our homes, so that phase two in the fight against COVID-19 in Italy will start in the best way possible.”

Many Muslims celebrated Eid at home with immediate family members. Those who decided to meet and pray together outside their households did it while “strictly respecting” health protocols and social distancing to avoid risk of infection, UCOII said. The organization asked people to display the same “utmost prudence and responsibility” when entering every place of worship from now on.

At Milan’s Al-Wahid Mosque Imam Yahya Sergio Pallavicini set up spacing for 140 new prayer mats. There are different entry and exit points for men and women, along with dedicated courtyards. 

Sanitization is carried out regularly while detergents, disinfecting gel and personal protective equipment are being offered by city authorities. “We pray for the inner and outer health of believers and Italian people,” Pallavicini said at the start of Eid prayers.

Almost 200 people gathered to pray in Rome’s Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Muslims arranged their prayer mats and moved about in line with social distancing rules. Posters in Italian and Arabic told people that hugging was not allowed. 

“Even if we are in an outside space, nobody has to get too close,” the imam told his flock before prayers commenced. “It is mandatory and for the sake of everyone’s health.” There were children in the congregation too, and everyone wore face masks.

“I am so happy that I am finally meeting my friends for this prayer, but we have to stay apart,” 13-year-old Samir told Arab News. “We will have time to embrace, to play together in the future, when the virus will be gone.” He said he had missed going to his mosque, near Furio Camillo station, during the lockdown. 

“I prayed with my father, of course we were following prayers on YouTube and on Facebook. But it was not the same. Here I really feel part of a group sharing a faith. And it is great to be together again,” he added.

In Piazza Re di Roma, in the southern part of the city center, 250 Muslims gathered to pray. “We just prayed together, and stayed in the square for an hour only,” 31-year-old Latif told Arab News. “The celebration will be with our families later on.”

An outdoor celebration took place in the Sicilian capital Palermo with Mayor Leoluca Orlando also joining in. “We are happy for this celebration which marks another sign of the return to normality of our communities,” he told Arab News. “Being able to pray together is one of the most important needs for a religion as that improves the sense of community. Now we can do it again together: and that’s a great sign not only for the Muslim community but for the entire population of Palermo.”