People | Geography | History | Economy | Government



PEOPLE

With its 190 million inhabitants, Brazil has the largest population in Latin America and ranks fifth in the world. The majority of people live in the south-central area, which includes the industrial cities of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte. Brazil underwent rapid urban growth; by 2005, 81% of the total population was living in urban areas. This growth aids economic development but also creates serious social, security, environmental, and political problems for major cities.

Six major groups make up the Brazilian population: the Portuguese, who colonized Brazil in the 16th century; Africans brought to Brazil as slaves; various other European, Middle Eastern, and Japanese and other Asian immigrant groups who settled in Brazil since the mid-19th century; and indigenous peoples 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 originally Portuguese, subsequent waves of immigration contributed to a diverse ethnic and cultural heritage.

Nationality: Brazilian.
Population (2010): 190 million.
Annual population growth rate: 1.02%.
Ethnic groups: African, Portuguese, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Indigenous peoples, and people of Middle Eastern descent.
Religion: Roman Catholic (74%).
Language: Portuguese.
Education: Literacy--90.3% of adult population.
Health: Infant mortality rate--21.17/1,000. Life expectancy--73.1 years in 2010.
Work force (2009 est.): 101.7 million.


GEOGRAPHY

Official Name: Federative Republic of Brazil

Area: 8,511,965 sq. km. (3,290,000 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than the U.S.

Cities: Capital--Brasilia (pop. 2.0 million). Other cities--Sao Paulo (10.4 million), Rio de Janeiro (5.8 million), Belo Horizonte (2.2 million), Salvador (2.4 million), Fortaleza (2.1 million), Recife (1.4 million), Porto Alegre (1.4 million), Curitiba (1.6 million).

Terrain: Dense forests in northern regions including Amazon Basin; semiarid along norrtheast coast; mountains, hills, and rolling plains in the southwest, including Mato Grosso; and coastal lowland.

Climate: Mostly tropical or semitropical with temperate zone in the south.

Environment - current issues: deforestation in Amazon Basin destroys the habitat and endangers the existence of a multitude of plant and animal species indigenous to the area; air and water pollution in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and several other large cities; land degradation and water pollution caused by improper mining activities
note: President CARDOSO in September 1999 signed into force an environmental crime bill which for the first time defines pollution and deforestation as crimes punishable by stiff fines and jail sentences

Environment - international agreements: party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol

Geography - note: largest country in South America; shares common boundaries with every South American country except Chile and Ecuador


HISTORY

From 1875 until 1960, about 5 million Europeans emigrated to Brazil, settling mainly in the four southern states of Sao Paulo, Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul. Immigrants have come mainly from Italy, Germany, Spain, Japan, Poland, and the Middle East. The largest Japanese community outside Japan is in Sao Paulo. Despite class distinctions, national identity is strong, and racial friction is a relatively new phenomenon. Indigenous full-blooded Indians, located mainly in the northern and western border regions and in the upper Amazon Basin, constitute less than 1% of the population. Their numbers are declining as contact with the outside world and commercial expansion into the interior increase. Brazilian Government programs to establish reservations and to provide other forms of assistance have existed for years but are controversial and often ineffective.

Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas. About 80% of all Brazilians belong to the Roman Catholic Church; most others are Protestant or follow practices derived from African religions.

Brazil was claimed for Portugal in 1500 by Pedro Alvares Cabral. It was ruled from Lisbon as a colony until 1808, when the royal family, having fled from Napoleon's army, established the seat of Portuguese Government in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil became a kingdom under Dom Joao VI, who returned to Portugal in 1821. His son declared Brazil's independence on September 7, 1822, and became emperor with the title of Dom Pedro I. His son, Dom Pedro II, ruled from 1831 to 1889, when a federal republic was established in a coup by Deodoro da Fonseca, Marshal of the army. Slavery had been abolished a year earlier by the Regent Princess Isabel while Dom Pedro II was in Europe.

From 1889 to 1930, the government was a constitutional democracy, with the presidency alternating between the dominant states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. This period ended with a military coup that placed Getulio Vargas, a civilian, in the presidency; Vargas remained as dictator until 1945. From 1945 to 1961, Eurico Dutra, Vargas, Juscelino Kubitschek, and Janio Quadros were elected presidents. When Quadros resigned in 1961, he was succeeded by Vice President Joao Goulart.

Goulart's years in office were marked by high inflation, economic stagnation, and the increasing influence of radical political elements. The armed forces, alarmed by these developments, staged a coup on March 31, 1964. The coup leaders chose as president Humberto Castello Branco, followed by Arthur da Costa e Silva (1967-69), Emilio Garrastazu Medici (1968-74), and Ernesto Geisel (1974-79) all of whom were senior army officers. Geisel began a democratic opening that was continued by his successor, Gen. Joao Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo (1979-85). Figueiredo not only permitted the return of politicians exiled or banned from political activity during the 1960s and 1970s, but also allowed them to run for state and federal offices in 1982.

At the same time, an electoral college consisting of all members of congress and six delegates chosen from each state continued to choose the president. In January 1985, the electoral college voted Tancredo Neves from the opposition Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) into office as President. However, Neves became ill in March and died a month later. His Vice President, former Senator Jose Sarney, became President upon Neves' death. Brazil completed its transition to a popularly elected government in 1989, when Fernando Collor de Mello won 53% of the vote in the first direct presidential election in 29 years. In 1992, a major corruption scandal led to his impeachment and ultimate resignation. Vice President Itamar Franco took his place and governed for the remainder of Collor's term culminating in the October 3, 1994 presidential elections, when Fernando Henrique Cardoso was elected President with 54% of the vote. Cardoso took office January 1, 1995, and pursued a program of ambitious economic reform. He was re-elected in October 1998 for a second four-year term. Luiz Inacio da Silva, commonly known as Lula, was elected president in 2002, after his fourth campaign for the office.

The next general election will be held in 2010 to elect a new president and state governors, federal and state deputies, and a portion of senators. The first round of elections is scheduled for October 3, 2010 with run-offs as necessary October 31, 2010.


ECONOMY

The Brazilian economy’s solid performance during the financial crisis and its strong and early recovery, including 2010 growth of 7.5%, have contributed to the country’s transition from a regional to a global power. Expected to continue to grow in the 4% to 5% range, the economy is the world’s eighth-largest and is expected to rise to fifth within the next several years. During the administration of former President Lula, surging exports, economic growth and social programs helped lift tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty. For the first time, a majority of Brazilians are now middle-class, and domestic consumption has become an important driver of Brazilian growth. President Dilma Rousseff, who took office on January 1, 2011, has indicated her intention to continue the former president’s economic policies, including sound fiscal management, inflation control, and a floating exchange rate.

Rising employment and strong domestic demand pushed inflation to nearly 6% in 2010, leading the central bank to boost interest rates and the Rousseff government to announce cuts in 2011 spending. The economic boom and high interest rates have attracted foreign currency inflows that have driven up the value of the currency (the real) by nearly 40% since the start of 2009. In an effort to limit the appreciation, the government has increased dollar reserves and capital controls.

Brazil is generally open to and encourages foreign investment. It is the largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Latin America, and the United States is traditionally the top foreign investor in Brazil. Since domestic savings are not sufficient to sustain long-term high growth rates, Brazil must continue to attract FDI, especially as the government plans to invest billions of dollars in off-shore oil, nuclear power, and other infrastructure sectors over the next few years. The major international athletic competitions that Brazil will host every year until the 2016 Rio Olympics are also leading the government to invest in roads, airports, sports facilities, and other areas.

Trade Policy
President Rousseff will continue to make economic growth and poverty alleviation top priorities. Export promotion is a main component in plans to generate growth and reduce what is seen as a vulnerability to international financial market fluctuations. To increase exports, the government is seeking access to foreign markets through trade negotiations and increased export promotion as well as measures to promote exports.

Brazil has been a leading player in the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round negotiations and continues to seek to bring that effort to successful conclusion. To further increase its international profile (both economically and politically), the Rousseff administration is also seeking expanded trade ties with developing countries, as well as a strengthening of the Mercosul (Mercosur in Spanish) customs union with Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina. In 2008 Mercosul concluded a free trade arrangement with Israel, and another arrangement with Egypt was signed in 2010. Mercosul is pursuing free trade negotiations with Mexico and Canada and resumed trade negotiations with the EU. The trade bloc also plans to launch trilateral free trade negotiations with India and South Africa, building on partial trade liberalization agreements concluded with these countries in 2004. China has significantly increased its purchases of Brazilian soy, iron ore, and steel in recent years, becoming Brazil's principal export market and an important source of investment.

Agriculture
Agriculture is a major sector of the Brazilian economy, and is key for economic growth and foreign exchange. Agriculture accounts for about 6% of GDP (25% when including agribusiness) and 36% of Brazilian exports. Brazil enjoyed a positive agricultural trade balance of $55 billion in 2009. Brazil is the world's largest producer of sugarcane, coffee, tropical fruits, frozen concentrated orange juice (FCOJ), and has the world's largest commercial cattle herd (50% larger than that of the U.S.) at 170 million head. Brazil is also an important producer of soybeans (second to the United States), corn, cotton, cocoa, tobacco, and forest products. The remainder of agricultural output is in the livestock sector, mainly the production of beef and poultry (second to the United States), pork, milk, and seafood.

Environment, Science, and Technology
About half of Brazil is covered in forests, and Brazil has the majority of the world's largest rain forest, the Amazon. Little less than 40% of the Amazon, and to a lesser extent the Cerrado (tropical savannah), is managed by national, state, or municipal governments, either as conservation units, forest concessions, or officially designated indigenous lands. In the last 30 years, migration into the Amazon and the conversion of forest land, primarily for agricultural use, reduced forest cover in the Brazilian Amazon by 20%. Through initiatives such as the revitalization of degraded pastures and forest, agriculture, and livestock integration, the government made progress in reducing deforestation for agricultural use. However, deforestation due to illegal logging remains a serious problem. In 2006, the government created the Brazilian Forest Service with the aim to manage in a sustainable manner the Amazon forest resources.

Although Brazil had a slow start in 2010 in taking steps to advance its climate change commitments made at the COP-15 in Copenhagen, by the end of 2010 it had pushed ahead with concrete action demonstrating results on climate change. Brazil's national initiatives served to demonstrate the country’s intention to solidify its role as a leading player in international climate change negotiations. The lowest-ever Amazon deforestation rate, updated numbers for Brazil’s inventory on greenhouse gas emissions, a national action plan, and the implementation of the National Climate Change Fund were concrete domestic steps taken by the Government of Brazil to address climate change concerns and were a signal to the international community underscoring that Brazil is indeed trying to meet the ambitious goals presented at COP-15. Figures from 2010 demonstrated that Brazil has reduced the rate of Amazon deforestation by more than 70%, the lowest rate of deforestation in over 20 years, and government officials predict that, at the current pace, Brazil’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 36.1% to 38.9% could be reached by 2016 rather than 2020. Brazil also increased its programs in other biomes at risk for significant deforestation. At COP-16 in December 2010 in Cancun, the Brazilian Government delegation played an important role in brokering the central outcome of the conference--a characterization of country commitments under the Kyoto Protocol that could enable Protocol proponents to say it can continue into a second commitment period.

Brazil is a leader in science and technology in South America and a global leader in some fields, such as biofuels, agricultural research, deep-sea oil production, and remote sensing. The Brazilian Government seeks to develop an environment that is more supportive of innovation, taking scientific advances from the laboratory to the marketplace in order to promote economic growth. Yet there are still some challenges. With the vast majority of the population living in urban areas, Brazil faces serious environmental obstacles in providing potable water to its citizens and removing and treating their waste water.

U.S. Government, private sector, and academic researchers have extensive ties with Brazilian counterparts. Areas in which there is close cooperation include biofuels, medical research, remote sensing, and agriculture. The extent of bilateral scientific and technological cooperation is expanding and prospective areas in which to expand include advanced materials, telecommunications, energy transmission, and energy efficiency. Limitations to cooperation include substantial restrictions on foreign researchers collecting or studying biological materials, due to concerns over possible unauthorized taking and commercialization of genetic resources or traditional knowledge of indigenous communities (often referred to as "biopiracy").

Other Aspects
Brazil has one of the most advanced industrial sectors in Latin America. Accounting for roughly one-third of the GDP, Brazil's diverse industries include automobiles and parts, machinery and equipment, textiles, shoes, cement, computers, aircraft, and consumer durables. Brazil continues to be a major world supplier of commodities and natural resources, with significant operations in lumber, iron ore, tin, other minerals, and petrochemicals. Brazil has a diverse and sophisticated services industry as well, including developed telecommunications, banking, energy, commerce, and computing sectors. The financial sector is secure and provides local firms with a wide range of financial products, yet interest rates remain among the highest in the world. The largest financial firms are Brazilian (and the two largest banks are government-owned), but U.S. and other foreign firms have an important share of the market.

Government-initiated privatization after 1996 triggered a flood of investors in the telecom, energy, and transportation sectors. Privatization in the transportation sector has been particularly active over the last 20 years. Many antiquated and burdensome state management structures that operated in the sector were dismantled, though some still exist. The Brazilian railroad industry was privatized through concession contracts ranging from 30 to 60 years, and the ports sector is experiencing similar, albeit less expansive, privatization. In response to the dramatic deterioration in the national highway system, the federal government granted concessions for existing highways to private companies, which in turn promise to restore, maintain, and expand these highways in exchange for toll revenues generated. New opportunities are expected to arise with the opening of the Brazilian civil airports to private management and investment through a federal concession model, but the initiative faces obstacles due to questions surrounding sovereignty and opposition from airport unions. The United States and Brazil signed an Air Services Liberalization Agreement in 2008 that increased commercial air travel between the two countries. In 2010, they initialed an air transportation agreement and an air transportation memorandum of understanding that, when they are signed and enter into force, will continue and expand this process.

The Government of Brazil undertook an ambitious program to reduce dependence on imported oil. In the mid-1980s, imports accounted for more than 70% of Brazil's oil and derivatives needs; the net figure is now zero. Brazil announced in early 2008 the discovery of the Tupi and Carioca oil fields off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. The oil reserves in these fields are conservatively estimated at between 30 billion and 80 billion barrels, which would put Brazil in the top 10 countries in the world in reserves. Output from the existing Campos Basin and the discovery of the new fields could make Brazil a significant oil exporter by 2015. Brazil is one of the world's leading producers of hydroelectric power. Of its total installed electricity-generation capacity of 112,000 megawatts, hydropower accounts for 77,000 megawatts (69%). Brazil is also the world’s largest biofuels exporter and sugar-based ethanol makes up over 50% of its vehicle fuel usage. Brazil and the United States, as the world’s largest biofuels producers, are working jointly through a 2007 memorandum of understanding to help make sustainable biofuels a global commodity.

Like its supply of carbon-based fossil fuels, Brazil’s proven mineral resources are extensive. Large iron and manganese reserves are important sources of industrial raw materials and export earnings. Mining companies, most of them Brazilian, tend to prefer to explore the deposits of nickel, tin, chromite, bauxite, beryllium, copper, lead, tungsten, zinc, gold, and other minerals. High-quality, coking-grade coal required in the steel industry is in short supply.

Economy (2010 est.)
GDP (nominal exchange rate): $ 2.1 trillion.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $2.194 trillion.
Annual real growth (2010): 7.5%.
Per capita GDP (nominal exchange rate): $11,185.
Per capita GDP (purchasing power parity): $10,900.
Natural resources: Iron ore, manganese, bauxite, nickel, uranium, gemstones, oil, wood, and aluminum. Brazil has 14% of the world's renewable fresh water.
Agriculture (6% of GDP): Products--soybeans, coffee, sugarcane, cocoa, rice, livestock, corn, oranges, cotton, wheat, and tobacco.
Industry (28% of GDP): Types--steel, commercial aircraft, chemicals, petrochemicals, footwear, machinery, motors, vehicles, auto parts, consumer durables, cement, and lumber.
Services (66% of GDP): Types--mail, telecommunications, banking, energy, commerce, and computing.
Trade: Trade balance (2011)--$20 billion surplus. Exports--$202 billion. Major markets--China 15%, United States 10%, Argentina 9%. Imports--$182 billion. Major suppliers--United States 15%, China 14%, and Argentina 8%.
Exchange rate (March 3, 2011): U.S. $1 = 1.65 Brazilian reais.


GOVERNMENT

Brazil is a federal republic with 26 states and a federal district. The 1988 constitution grants broad powers to the federal government, made up of executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The president holds office for 4 years, with the right to re-election for an additional 4-year term, and appoints his own cabinet. There are 81 senators, three for each state and the Federal District, and 513 deputies. Senate terms are 8 years, staggered so that two-thirds of the upper house is up for election at one time and one-third 4 years later. Chamber terms are 4 years, with elections based on a complex system of proportional representation by states. Each state is eligible for a minimum of eight seats; the largest state delegation (Sao Paulo's) is capped at 70 seats. This system is weighted in favor of geographically large but sparsely populated states.

Nineteen political parties are represented in Congress. Since it is common for politicians to switch parties, the proportion of congressional seats held by particular parties changes regularly. The major political parties are:

o Workers' Party (PT-center-left)
o Democrats (DEM-center-right)
o Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB-center)
o Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB-center-left)
o Progressive Party (PP-right)
o Brazilian Labor Party (PTB-center-right)
o Party of the Republic (PR-center-right)
o Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB-left)
o Popular Socialist Party (PPS-left)
o Democratic Labor Party (PDT-left)
o Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB-left)
o

President Lula was re-elected October 29, 2006 in a second round victory with over sixty percent of the vote, over Geraldo Alckmin of the PSDB. Lula’s PT party failed to win a majority in either the lower or upper houses in concurrent legislative elections and will be obliged to form a coalition with the centrist PMDB party -- which won the most seats in the lower house and may end up with the largest number in the Senate -- and a collection of minor parties. However, party loyalty is weak in Brazil, and it is common for politicians to switch parties, changing the balance of power in Congress. The PT won five of twenty-seven governorships, but the opposition PSDB remains in control of the critical states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. The PMDB, as in the legislative elections, won the most governorships of any one party, controlling seven states. Because of the mandatory revenue allocation to states and municipalities provided for in the 1988 constitution, Brazilian governors and mayors have exercised considerable power since 1989.

Lula's electoral victory came despite a series of corruption scandals that resulted in the resignation of senior PT officials and the electoral defeat of several congressmen from parties allied to the PT. A number of congressional investigations are ongoing, though Lula has never been linked personally to any of the scandals.


Principal Government Officials
President--Dilma Vana Rousseff
Vice President--Michel Miguel Elias Temer Lulia
Minister-Chief Casa Civil (Chief of Staff)--Antonio Palocci Filho
Minister of Defense--Nelson Jobim
Minister of Development, Industry, and Trade--Fernando Damata Pimentel
Minister of Finance--Guido Mantega
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Antonio de Aguiar Patriota
Minister of Justice--Jose Eduardo Cardozo
Minister of the Environment--Izabella Teixeira
Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply--Wagner Goncalves Rossi
Minister of Mines and Energy--Edison Lobao
Ambassador to the United States--Mauro Vieira
Ambassador to the United Nations--Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti
Ambassador to the OAS--Ruy de Lima Casaes e Silva

Brazil maintains an embassy in the United States at 3006 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-238-2700). Brazil maintains consulates general in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles; and consulates in Miami, Houston, Boston, San Francisco, and Orlando.

Type: Federative republic.
Independence: September 7, 1822.
Constitution: Promulgated October 5, 1988.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state and head of government popularly elected to no more than two 4-year terms). Legislative--Senate (81 members popularly elected to 8-year terms), Chamber of Deputies (513 members popularly elected to 4-year terms). Judicial--Supreme Federal Tribunal (11 lifetime positions appointed by the president).
Political parties: Workers Party (PT), Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), Liberal Front Party (PFL), Social Democratic Party (PSD), Democratic Workers Party (PDT), Brazilian Labor Party (PTB), Liberal Party (PL), Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), Communist Party of Brazil (PC do B), Brazilian Progressive Party (PPB) [Note: In early 2003, this party changed its name to the Progressive Party (PP).], Popular Socialist Party (PPS), Green Party (PV), the Social Liberal Party (PSL), the National Mobilization Party (PMN), National Workers Party (PTN), Humanistic Solidarity Party (PHS), and the Party of the Reedification of the National Order (PRONA).



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