Black day for an embattled Collor

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The Independent Online
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - President Fernando Collor de Mello asked Brazilians to support his government by wearing the national colors of yellow and green on Sunday, but most ignored him, or wore black, for impeachment.

In Brasilia, about 10,000 black- clad protesters gathered near the Planalto Presidential Palace to demand that Mr Collor step down. A green-and-yellow Collor doll hanging from a noose was carried at the head of the procession.

Among the protesters was Pedro Luis Rodrigues, Mr Collor's former press spokesman who resigned earlier this month. Only about 500 people gathered at the Casa da Dinda, Mr Collor's Brasilia mansion, to back the President. Most were bused in from slums on the city's outskirts by Mr Collor's business supporters.

The President refused to speak to reporters. Protesters badly outnumbered Collor supporters in other major cities as well. In Rio, more than 10,000 demonstrators wearing black clothing marched through the ocean front district of Copacabana chanting anti-government slogans. During a 30- minute drive through the city, not a single person was seen wearing yellow or green and just one Brazilian flag was spotted, in an apartment building. No pro-government demonstrations were held.

In Sao Paulo, six anti-Collor demonstrations were held, including a symbolic burial of Mr Collor at the city's Municipal Theatre. Many people hung black cloth from windows and a huge black banner was hung from a city centre office building.

Other pro-impeachment rallies attracted crowds in Recife and Alagoas. The President is threatened with impeachment proceedings due to widespread charges of corruption.

Congress has unveiled a massive corruption scheme involving hundreds of millions of dollars linked to Paulo Cesar Farias, Mr Collor's close friend and 1989 campaign treasurer. Part of the money went to pay Mr Collor's personal and family expenses. Mr Collor says he won't resign, but impeachment proceedings are expected to begin shortly.