This article is about the country. For other uses see Brazil (disambiguation).
|National motto: Ordem e Progresso|
(Portuguese, Order and Progress)
|President||Luís Inácio Lula da Silva|
- % water
|Ranked 5th |
- Total (2000)
September 7, 1822
August 29, 1825
|Time zone||UTC -2 to -5|
|National anthem||Hino Nacional Brasileiro|
Brazil was first sighted by Europeans in 1500 and developed as a Portuguese commercial colony, based to a large extent on slavery. The Portuguese royal family and government fled Portugal from Napoleon in 1807 and relocated to Brazil. Though they returned in 1821, the interlude led to a growing desire for independence amongst Brazilians and in 1822 the then prince-regent Dom Pedro I established the independent Empire of Brazil. This lasted until the next emperor, Dom Pedro II was deposed in 1889 and a republican based federation was adopted.
Brazil received an influx of over 5 million immigrants in the late 19th, early 20th centuries, a period that also saw Brazil industrialise and further expand into its interior. Brazil became a dictatorship in 1937 under Getulio Vargas, returned to popular elections in 1945, but following a military coup d'état in 1964 saw a succession of generals as president, until 1985. Brazil has since returned to a popularly elected government and is pursuing further development of its economic standing, both domestically and internationally.
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 parliament, 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.
There is some talk among monarchists in Brazil of restoring the monarchy as a symbol of national unity and political stability. A national plebiscite was held on the issue in April of 1993, but was ultimately rejected.
Brazil consists of 26 states (estados, singular - estado) and 1 federal district (distrito federal):
Brazil is characterised 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, the Parana[?] with its impressive Iguaçu[?] falls, 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.
Possessing large and well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and service sectors, as well as a large labour 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 and steel.
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 and the hiking of interest rates by the Central Bank to combat inflationary pressures. Investor confidence was strong at yearend 2001, in part because of the strong recovery in the trade balance. Highly unequal income distribution remains a pressing problem.
Four major groups make up the Brazilian population: the Portuguese, the original colonisers; Africans brought to Brazil as slaves; various other European, Middle Eastern, and Asian immigrant groups who have settled in Brazil since the mid-19th century; and indigenous people of Tupi and Guarani language stock. Intermarriage between the Portuguese and indigenous people or slaves was common. Although the major European ethnic stock of Brazil was once Portuguese, subsequent waves of immigration have contributed to a diverse ethnic and cultural heritage.
Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas. About 80% of all Brazilians belong to the Roman Catholic Church; most others adhere to various Protestant faiths or follow practices derived from African religions.
Much of the material in these articles comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.