Protests erupted in cities around Brazil after President Dilma Rousseff named her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as chief of staff. Critics claim a taped telephone conversation show the move was meant to shield Lula from prosecution.

Lula was charged with money laundering and fraud as part of an investigation into bribes and political kickbacks at state oil company Petrobras. The hurried appointment of Lula as Rousseff's chief of staff gives him immunity from all but the Supreme Court, delaying any attempts to prosecute him.

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A demonstrator throws an inflatable doll representing Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva onto a fire in front of the national congress in BrasiliaAdriano Machado/Reuters
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Demonstrators carry an effigy of Lula dressed as prisoner along Paulista Avenue in Sao PauloMiguel Schincariol/AFP
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Demonstrators call for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment along Paulista Avenue, in Sao PauloMiguel Schincariol/AFP

Sergio Moro, the federal judge overseeing the corruption probe, released nearly 50 audio recordings. He said the conversations showed Lula and Rousseff considered trying to influence prosecutors and courts in his favour. He admitted, however, there was no evidence they actually carried this out. One recording, made public by the court, showed Rousseff offering to send Lula a copy of his appointment "in case it was necessary" – a possible reference to it providing him with immunity.

Lula, a 70-year-old former union leader whose 2003-2010 government helped lift some 40 million Brazilians out of poverty, remains one of Brazil's most influential politicians.

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Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva leaves the Lula Institute headquarters in Sao PauloMiguel Schincariol/AFP

Opposition politicians demanded Rousseff's resignation. "Today Brazil had to see the president of the country, Dilma Rousseff, in a dialogue with former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva trying to obstruct justice. There is no other route other than the president's immediate resignation," Antonio Imbassahy said.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in major cities, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. In the capital Brasilia, riot police fired pepper spray at more than 5,000 demonstrators who filled the streets outside the presidential palace and Congress building. Many of the demonstrators waved banners calling for Rousseff's resignation and Lula's arrest.

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A demonstrator runs to escape from a police officer during a protes in front of the national congress in BrasiliaAdriano Machado/Reuters
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Riot policemen stand guard outside the Planalto Palace in BrasiliaEvaristo Sa/AFP
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Demonstrators confront riot police as they protest against corruption in BrasiliaAndressa Anholete/AFP
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Protesters gather for a rally in Sao PauloLeonardo Benassatto/Reuters
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Anti-government demonstrators protest against the appointment of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as a minister, in Sao PauloLeonardo Benassatto/Reuters
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An anti-Dilma protester lets off a firework in Sao PauloMiguel Schincariol/AFP
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A protester walks under a huge Brazilian flag in Sao PauloMiguel Schincariol/AFP

Embattled Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff swore in former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as her chief of staff, as protesters clashed over the controversial appointment outside the presidential palace. Rousseff embraced Lula after signing the order and welcomed him to her cabinet. "Welcome dear companion, Luiz Inacio, Minister Lula. I count on the experience of Minister Lula, I count on his identity, the identity that he has with this country, with the people of this country. I count on this. Inacio Lula da Silva, Chief of Staff of the civil house," she said.

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Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff raises former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's hand as he is sworn in as chief of staff, at Planalto palace in BrasiliaRoberto Stuckert Filho/Brazilian Presidency/Reuters
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Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva hugs president Dilma Rousseff as he is sworn in as chief of staff, in BrasiliaEvaristo Sa/AFP

Meanwhile, outside the presidential palace, supporters and opponents of Lula scuffled. Police used pepper spray to stop a clash between the rival groups and move away some 300 opposition protesters who were trying to enter the square, occupied by more than 300 pro-government demonstrators. Hundreds of anti-government protesters calling for Rousseff's impeachment and Lula's arrest also blocked the central Avenue Paulista in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city and economic hub.

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An anti-government demonstrator (L) and a supporter of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff clash before the appointment of former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as chief of staff, near the Planalto palace in BrasiliaRicardo Moraes/Reuters
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An anti-government demonstrator (L) and a supporter of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff clash in BrasiliaRicardo Moraes/Reuters
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A police officer uses pepper spray on demonstrators in front of the National Congress in BrasiliaRicardo Moraes/Reuters
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A police officer hits an anti-government demonstrator near the Planalto palaceRicardo Moraes/Reuters
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Demonstrators take part in a protest over the appointment of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as chief of staff, in front of the Brazilian national congress in BrasiliaRicardo Moraes/Reuters
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A demonstrator attends a protest over the appointment of Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as chief of staff, at Paulista avenue in Sao PauloPaulo Whitaker/Reuters

On Sunday (13 March) an estimated three million people turned out for anti-government demonstrations in many cities across Brazil.