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Brazilian vice president says government is 'paying attention' to protests urging impeachment

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RIO DE JANEIRO — The Brazilian government is "paying attention" to demonstrations demanding the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, the vice president says.

Demonstrators angry about a massive corruption scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras, as well as a sputtering economy, falling currency and spiraling inflation, took to the streets in cities across this continent-sized country on Sunday, though the turnout was lower turnout than in similar demonstrations on March 15.

Speaking to journalists following Sunday's rallies, Vice President Michel Temer said the government "needs to identify what the demands (of the demonstrations) are and attend to those demands.

"That's what the government is doing," Temer said late Sunday. Rousseff herself had not yet responded directly to Sunday's protests.

Groups that organized the demonstrations, mostly via social media, have varying agendas. Most support impeaching Rousseff, but others' demands range from more lenient gun control laws to a military coup.

Analysts say the lack of a single, unified objective may have affected turnout on Sunday.

PHOTO: Demonstrators takes part in an anti-government protest in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, April 12, 2015. Anti-government demonstrators began streaming into the streets throughout Brazil to demand the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. (AP Photo/Nelson Antoine)
Demonstrators takes part in an anti-government protest in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, April 12, 2015. Anti-government demonstrators began streaming into the streets throughout Brazil to demand the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. (AP Photo/Nelson Antoine)

"There is little indication that the opposition forces have plans other than being 'against' the current president," Jeff Lesser, a Brazilian history expert at Emory University, wrote in an email.

Another analyst, Carlos Melo, of the Sao Paulo-based Insper business school, said that the lower turnout has dialed down the pressure on the government and predicted that the future of the protest movement will largely depend on revelations emerging from the investigation at Petrobras, as well as the performance of Brazil's economy.

"If things worsen, the pressure will increase," he said.

One president, Fernando Collor de Mello, has been impeached since Brazil's return to democracy in 1985, but many legal experts have said that Rousseff could only be impeached if evidence emerges directly linking her to crimes committed during her second term, which began in January.

Rousseff, a former chairwoman of Petrobras' board, has not been implicated in the unfolding scandal at the oil company, which prosecutors say is the largest corruption scheme yet uncovered in Brazil. Prosecutors say at least $800 million was paid in bribes and other funds by construction and engineering firms in exchange for inflated Petrobras contracts.

A survey released Saturday by the Folha de S.Paulo daily found that most of those polled supported opening impeachment proceedings against Rousseff.

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Associated Press writer Adriana Gomez Licon contributed to this report.

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