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Brazil: 150,000 protest corruption

SAO PAULO -- About 150,000 anti-government demonstrators again took to streets in several Brazilian cities Saturday and engaged police in some isolated, intense conflicts. Anger over political corruption emerged as the unifying issue for the demonstrators, who vowed to stay in the streets until concrete steps are taken to reform the political system.

Across Brazil, protesters gathered to denounce legislation, known as PEC 37, that would limit the power of federal prosecutors to investigate crimes -- which many fear would hinder attempts to jail corrupt politicians.

Federal prosecutors were behind the investigation into the biggest corruption case in Brazil's history, the so-called "mensalao" cash-for-votes scheme that came to light in 2005 and involved top aides of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva buying votes for their legislation in congress.

Last year, the supreme court condemned two dozen people in connection to the case, which was hailed as a watershed moment in Brazil's fight against corruption. However, those condemned have yet to be jailed because of appeals, a delay that has enraged Brazilians.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff "is underestimating the resolve of the people on the corruption issue," said Mayara Fernandes, a medical student who took part in a Sao Paulo march that drew 30,000 people on Saturday. "She talked and talked and said nothing. Nobody can take the corruption of this country anymore."

Elsewhere in Brazil, police estimated that about 60,000 demonstrators gathered in a central square in the city of Belo Horizonte, 30,000 shut down a main business avenue in Sao Paulo, and another 30,000 gathered in the city in southern Brazil where a nightclub fire killed over 240 mostly university students, deaths many argued could have been avoided with better government oversight of fire laws.

-- AP

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