The Federative Republic of Brazil (República Federativa do Brasil in Portuguese) is the largest and most populous country in South America, and fifth largest in the world. Spanning a vast area between central South America and the Atlantic Ocean, it borders Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana — every South American nation except for Ecuador and Chile. Named after brazilwood, a local tree, Brazil is home to both extensive agricultural lands and rain forests. The official language of Brazil is Portuguese.
Main article: History of Brazil
Brazil had been inhabited for at least 6,000 years by semi-nomadic populations when the first Portuguese explorers, led by Pedro Álvares Cabral disembarked in 1500. Over the next three centuries it was re-settled by the Portuguese and exploited mainly for brazilwood at first, and later for sugarcane agriculture. Work in the colony was based on slavery. In 1808 King João VI of Portugal, fleeing from Napoleon, relocated to Brazil with the royal family, nobles and government. Though they returned in 1821, the interlude led to the opening of commercial ports to England — at the time isolated from most European ports by Napoleon — and the "elevation" of Brazil to the status of a Kingdom united to Portugal's Crown. Then prince-regent Dom Pedro I declared independence on 7 September 1822, establishing the independent Empire of Brazil. This lasted until the next emperor, Dom Pedro II was deposed and a federal republic was established on 15 November 1889.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Brazil attracted over 5 million European and Japanese immigrants. That period also saw Brazil industrialise and further occupy its interior. Brazilian democracy was replaced by dictatorship three times — 1930–1934 and 1937–1945 under Getúlio Vargas, and 1964–1985 under a succession of generals appointed by the military.
Main article: Politics of Brazil
The 1988 constitution grants broad powers to the federal government, of which the president and vice president are elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms. The president has extensive executive powers and is both head of state and head of government and he also appoints the cabinet.
The Brazilian legislature, the bicameral National Congress or Congresso Nacional, consists of the Federal Senate or Senado Federal of 81 seats, of which three members from each state or federal district are elected according to the principle of majority to serve eight-year terms; one-third elected after a four-year period, two-thirds elected after the next four-year period. Beside the Senate there is the Chamber of Deputies or Câmara dos Deputados of 513 seats, whose members are elected by proportional representation to serve four-year terms.
Cangaço (criminal hinterland bands in the first years of the XX century)
Café com leite (reference to Brazil's domination by the "coffee oligarchs" in the first years of the XX century)
Coronelismo (reference to machine politics in the first years of the XX century, still present on a lesser scale in modern days)
Integralismo (influential Brazilian fascist movement in the 1930s)
Main article: States of Brazil
Brazil consists of 26 states (estados, singular estado) and 1 federal district (distrito federal):
Brazil and its 26 states and Federal District are divided by IBGE into 5 distinctive regions: North, Northeast, Center-West, Southeast and South (Division by Regions).
Map of Brazil
Main article: Geography of Brazil
Brazil is characterized by the extensive low-lying Amazon Rainforest in the north, and a more open terrain of hills and (low) mountains to the south, home to most of Brazil's population and its agricultural base. Along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean are also found several mountain ranges, amongst which the highest peak is the Pico da Neblina at 3,014 m. Major rivers include the Amazon, the largest river in the world by volume, and considered by many specialists also the longest of the world; the Paraná and its major tributary, the Iguaçu River, where the impressive Iguaçu falls are located; the Rio Negro, São Francisco, Xingu, Madeira and the Tapajós rivers.
Situated along the equator, Brazil's climate is predominantly tropical, with little seasonal variation, though the subtropical south is more temperate and can occasionally experience frost and snow. Precipitation is abundant in the humid Amazon Basin, though more arid landscapes are found as well, in particular in the northeast.
Main article: Economy of Brazil
Possessing large and well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and service sectors, as well as a large labor pool, Brazil's economy outweighs that of all other South American countries and is expanding its presence in world markets. Major export products include coffee, soybeans, iron ore, orange juice, steel and airplanes. After crafting a fiscal adjustment program and pledging progress on structural reform, Brazil received a USD 41.5 billion IMF-led international support program in November 1998. In January 1999, the Brazilian Central Bank announced that the Real would no longer be pegged to the US dollar. This devaluation helped moderate the downturn in economic growth in 1999 that investors had expressed concerns about over the summer of 1998, and the country posted moderate GDP growth.
Economic growth slowed considerably in 2001 — to less than 2% — because of a slowdown in major markets, the hiking of interest rates by the Central Bank to combat inflationary pressures, and fears over the economic policies of the new government to be elected. Investor confidence was strong at the end of 2001, in part because of the strong recovery in the trade balance. Highly unequal income distribution remains a pressing problem.
After Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva came to power 2003 January 1st, fears that his party would significantly change the economic policy subsided. The economy is growing again, and is expected to do so for the foreseeable future.
Main article: Demographics of Brazil
Brazil is populous along the coast, less in the interior. The inhabitants are very diverse with many races and cultures represented (see article above).
Main article: Culture of Brazil
Main Article: Sports in Brazil
Some fight sports with Brazilian origins have become popular around the world:
Much of the material in these articles comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.
Last updated: 10-12-2005 23:18:58