RIO DE JANEIRO — A year after helping push for the impeachment of the leftist President Dilma Rousseff, fewer conservatives are turning out for protests in Brazil, which is good news for her equally unpopular successor, Michel Temer. But the demands of those still demonstrating have hardened, and turned even further to the right.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in at least 18 states on Sunday in support of the sprawling Operation Car Wash graft investigation that drove Ms. Rousseff’s impeachment for breaking budget laws, although she was never personally accused of graft. The investigation is threatened by nervous lawmakers who are seeking to restrict its scope and calling for amnesty from illegal campaign financing.
Protesters in the Copacabana seafront area of Rio de Janeiro and along Paulista Avenue in São Paulo brandished posters, shouted slogans and even carried a cardboard cutout of Sérgio Moro, a federal judge who has sentenced dozens involved in the Operation Car Wash case.
But the number of protesters was significantly smaller than before the impeachment, and the protesters on Sunday did not target Mr. Temer, despite a growing number of references to him and his ministers in leaked corruption testimonies. Some demonstrators even argued that removing Mr. Temer would only create more political instability.
“It is a delicate moment,” said Ricardo Ismael, a professor of political science at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, who was observing the protests. “What do you do to renovate leaders, what do you do to renovate parties?”
In addition to voicing support for the inquiry into the scandal, many of those protesting in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo also called for more freedom to bear arms and even advocated military intervention in the government, as happened in 1964, when a coup led to 21 years of dictatorship.
In Rio de Janeiro, Alexsandro Borges, 47, a businessman marching with other retired soldiers from a parachute regiment, said he supported military intervention.
“With the state Brazil is in, I don’t see another option,” he said.
Mr. Borges added that Brazilians should have more freedom to carry arms.
“We would like the right to defend ourselves, because the government doesn’t protect us,” he said.
The demand for more freedom to bear arms is a new development as demonstrations become more conservative, said Wagner Romão, a professor of political science at the State University of Campinas.
Introduced in 2003, Brazil’s disarmament statute made it more difficult and expensive to legally possess firearms. Hundreds of thousands of weapons were handed in during subsequent amnesties.
Now, concerned by the country’s high levels of homicide and violent crime, conservative protesters want the statute revoked. The Free Brazil Movement, one of the groups behind Sunday’s demonstrations, includes it on a list of demands.
“The cause is growing,” said Edson Lopes, 70, a retired naval officer marching in Rio de Janeiro. “People aren’t safe anywhere.”
Joice Hasselmann, a conservative commentator whose YouTube broadcasts are watched by hundreds of thousands, called for an end to the disarmament statute in a speech in Rio de Janeiro.
“I have been robbed, I have been kidnapped, I have had a weapon held to my head,” she told a cheering crowd. “Why can’t a woman have a weapon at home?”
With speakers railing against all the major political parties after so many of their leaders have been tied to corruption in leaked testimony, many marchers in Rio de Janeiro said they would vote in the 2018 election for Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right lawmaker from the city who has praised dictatorship-era torturers and attacked gay rights.
In a December 2016 poll by the Datafolha polling institute, 9 percent said they would vote for Mr. Bolsonaro in some scenarios.
In São Paulo, demonstrators also called for the end of the disarmament statute.
“A weapon is the only way we can defend our families,” said Jonas Pallone, 55, a business consultant.
Others said they did not want another dictatorship.
“If somebody wants to elect a military person, a padre, or whatever,” said Mirian Dias, 67, a retired elementary schoolteacher, “it should be by the vote.”
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