RIO DE JANEIRO — Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians filled streets across the country Sunday to protest corruption and call for the impeachment of deeply unpopular President Dilma Rousseff and the jailing of her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Protests were reported in every state in Brazil.
Wearing yellow and green Brazil national soccer team shirts and singing the national anthem, protesters denounced a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal involving bribes and kickbacks on fat contracts at the state-run oil company, Petrobras. That scandal has led to the jailing of politicians from Rousseff’s Workers’ Party and its coalition allies.
It was the fifth time in a year that protesters filled city streets across Brazil, and indications were that the number of protesters was higher than before. At least 450,000 people filled Sao Paulo’s central Paulista Avenue — more than in a 1984 human rights march that helped bring about the fall of Brazil’s dictatorship, the Datafolha polling institute reported.
Police reported 100,000 people in Brasilia, the capital; 120,000 in Recife; and 160,000 in Curitiba. In Rio de Janeiro, organizers said 200,000 thronged the Copacabana seafront.
“This is very worrying for the government,” said Ricardo Mendes, a partner at the Miami office of Prospectiva, a consulting group, who was following events in Sao Paulo. “It is a big mobilization of the population.”
The protests intensified pressure on Rousseff’s embattled government as she struggles to survive in power less than 18 months after she was narrowly reelected. She faces impeachment proceedings, an inquiry at an electoral court, and a worsening recession that saw Brazil’s economy shrink 3.8 percent last year.
Many protesters brandished banners and chanted slogans targeting Lula, as the once-formidably popular president who ran Brazil from 2003 to 2011 is known. He recently has been dragged into the Petrobras scandal.
In Rio, a man dressed as Lula in a prison uniform was cheered by demonstrators. In Maceio in northeastern Brazil, a demonstration featured a giant snake with Lula’s face on it.
“Recent events have mobilized the population,” said Antonio Vasconcellos, 59, a company administrator demonstrating in Rio, said, “Lula will end up jailed.”
On March 4, police detained Lula for questioning in connection with a country estate and a seaside apartment that they think he owns and that were renovated by construction companies involved in the Petrobras scandal.
Last week, state prosecutors in Sao Paulo filed charges in a separate but related case involving the same apartment. Lula’s defense denies the allegations and says he does not own either property.
In Rio, protesters said Rousseff and her government had failed to stop Brazil’s economy from spiraling down into recession.
“There are no jobs,” said Ana Alho, 33, a real estate agent in Rio de Janeiro. “We have no other way. We have to go to the street.”
Onlookers cheered as her husband, Gustavo Giorge, 27, held up their baby son, Pedro, who wore a Brazil shirt and waved an inflatable doll with Lula’s face in prison garb on it.
“Say bye-bye, Pedro,” Giorge told his son. “Bye-bye to the Workers’ Party.”
Bruno Cruz, 32, who grew up in the Costa Barros neighborhood in North Rio and lives in Copacabana, where he works as a systems analyst, said that Brazil lacks education and infrastructure and that many of his friends are unemployed.
“The corruption is a very high price to pay for the social advances we have had,” he said.
“I want the politicians jailed,” said Cesar Melado, 35, a shopkeeper. Others chanted the name of Sergio Moro, the judge at the forefront of the Petrobras scandal.
In Sao Paulo, crowds shouted at opposition politicians Aécio Neves, who lost the 2014 election to Rousseff, and state governor Geraldo Alckmin. In Ceara state, demonstrators performed an impeachment dance routine.
In Congress, Rousseff’s position looks increasingly fragile. On Saturday her party’s main ally, the Democratic Movement of Brazil Party, or PMDB, voted to decide in 30 days whether it will stay in her coalition government — or leave it.
“There is a very strong majority that wants to leave,” said Wellington Moreira Franco, a former PMDB minister.