Brazil: A Country Profile of Terra do Brasil

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Brazil is a country in South America, bordered by Uruguay to the south, Argentina and Paraguay to the southwest, Bolivia and Peru to the west; Colombia to the northwest; and Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and France (French Guiana) to the north.

To the East, Brazil has a vast coastline (7,491 km) with the South Atlantic Ocean. Brazil occupies a total area of 8,515,770 sq km, making it the fifth-largest country in the world by area.

The official name of the country is “Federative Republic of Brazil”. Brasilia functions as the capital city of Brazil. The official language of Brazil is Portuguese. Some indigenous languages also have recognized official status in some municipalities.

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A view of Downtown Brasilia, the capital city of Brazil
Etymology

The name “Brazil” comes from the Portuguese word “pau-brasil”, which is the Portuguese name for Brazilwood, a tree that grew along the Brazilian coast.

Indigenous people and early settlers used Brazilwood to make a deep red dye, and it became the earliest commercially exploited product of Brazil. Due to the trade in Brazilwood, early Europeans called it the “Land of Brazil” (Terra do Brasil).

Bloc Positions

Brazil participates in major international institutions such as the UN, WTO, and the G20. It is also a member of the Organization of American States and Organization of Ibero-American States.

Moreover, it is part of the BRICS bloc. The US has designated Brazil as a major non-NATO ally in 2019. Brazil is a founding member state of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), also known as the Lusophone Commonwealth.

Lusophone Commonwealth is an international organization and political association of nations where Portuguese is an official language. In terms of regional blocs, Brazil is a part of Mercosur.

Commonly known as the Southern Common Market, it is a trade bloc that promotes free trade and free movement of goods, people, and currency. It is a customs union, in which there is free intra-zone trade and a common trade policy between member countries.

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Map of Brazil
Demographics

The population of Brazil is 212,688,125 (2022 estimate). It is the 6th largest country in the world by population, and the largest Portuguese-speaking country.

Ethnicities in Brazil are composed of Whites (47.7%); mixed-race (43.1%); Blacks (7.6%); East Asian (1.1%); and Amerindians, also known as the indigenous or native people (0.4%).

Brazilian society is divided on the lines of social classes. Brazilian society experiences a lot of classism and racism, as different races are associated with different socio-economic classes.

Roman Catholicism is the largest religion, practiced by 64.63%. Brazil contains the world’s largest Roman Catholic population. Protestants make up 22% of the population. 8% of the population practices no religion, while 2% adhere to Spiritism.

Brazil ranks high on Human Development Index, scoring 0.765 points in the 2019 Human Development report. Life expectancy in Brazil is 72 years for men and 79 years for women. 87.6 % of the population lives in urban areas.

Government and Politics

Brazil is a federal presidential republic. The President serves as the head of state and the head of government.1 It has a bicameral legislature, comprising the Federal Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.

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President Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (R). President Jair Bolsonarowill be seeking another term against Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former Brazilian president, in the federal election

The Chamber of Deputies has 513 seats, which are elected by proportional representation to serve four-year terms. The Federal Senate comprises 81 seats, three members from each state, and the Federal District, elected according to the principle of the majority to serve eight-year terms.

Brazil is a multi-party democracy. Multiple political parties take part in elections and affect national politics. In 2020, there are 40 active political parties.

Major political parties include the currently ruling Social Liberal Party, Worker’s Party (the second-largest party and primary opposition), Brazilian Social Democracy Party, Social Democratic Party, Progressives, Brazilian Democratic Movement, Brazilian Socialist Party, Liberal Party, and the Brazilian Republican Party, among others.

The current President is Jair Bolsonaro, who is serving as Brazil’s President since January 2019. He belongs to the Social Liberal Party, an anti-establishment group that combines social conservatism and pro-market policies.

Observers often describe Bolsonaro as a right-wing populist and a deeply polarizing figure. Jair Bolsonaro promised to “cleanse” Brazil of corruption. Among his flagship policies are a relaxation of gun laws, and reduced state intervention in the economy.

The country is administratively divided into 26 states, one federal district, and 5570 municipalities. States have autonomous administrations, collect their own taxes and receive a share of taxes collected by the Federal government.

Moreover, it is divided into five geographical regions, North Region, Northeast Region, Central-West Region, Southeast Region, and South Region.

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Brazil is divided into 26 states and one federal district

The federal election of Brazil will take place in October this year, with President Jair Bolsonaro seeking another term against Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has previously served two terms as Brazil’s president.

History

The Portuguese landed in the area and claimed it for the Portuguese crown in the year 1500. Effective colonization began in 1534 when it was divided into fifteen private and autonomous Captaincy Colonies of Brazil.

Later, in 1549, Brazil was created into a single centralized Portuguese colony. Sugar cane became an important export commodity in Brazil. It received more than 2.8 million slaves from Africa between the years 1500 to 1800 as part of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

Furthermore, other European powers also attempted to colonize parts of Brazil and established short-lived colonies. These powers included, most notably, the Dutch and the French.

In 1807, the Portuguese royal court shifted to Rio de Janeiro as a result of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. Rio de Janeiro became the capital of the Portuguese Empire.

However, Portugal kept Brazil as a colony until 1815. In 1815, the Portuguese Prince-Regent John VI, established the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and Algarves was established, raising Brazil’s status as a kingdom.

In September 1822, Prince Pedro declared Brazil’s independence from Portugal. A month later, Prince Pedro declared himself the first Emperor of Brazil. This resulted in the Brazilian War of Independence, as Portugal tried to re-establish Brazil as a colony but ultimately failed.

Brazil’s monarchy was overthrown in 1889 in a military coup and a federal republic was established. The early republican government was actually a military dictatorship, with the army dominating affairs both in the federal capital and in the states.

Since then, Brazil has seen several revolutions, periods of political instability, wars, military dictatorships, and guerilla conflicts. After a period of military rule (1964-1985), Brazil began a slow return to democracy.

Civilian control resumed in 1985. Elections and democratic rule have continued, albeit with challenges such as corruption scandals and protests.

In 2002, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Worker’s Party was elected as President of Brazil, and the transfer of power occurred peacefully. He won a second term in 2006.

Dilma Rousseff, also from the Worker’s Party, was elected twice in 2010 and 2014 before being impeached by the Brazilian Congress in 2016 over corruption and protests over police brutality, and inefficiencies of the political establishment and public.

Brazil became one of the hardest-hit countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, having the second-highest death toll worldwide after the United States.

Brazil is a country in South America, bordered by Uruguay to the south, Argentina and Paraguay to the southwest, Bolivia and Peru to the west; Colombia to the northwest; and Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and France (French Guiana) to the north.
Brazil is a country in South America. (PC: National Geographic)
Economy

The Gross Domestic Product of Brazil is about $3.585 trillion. The GDP Per Capita amounts to $16,763. Brazil is the largest national economy in Latin America and the world’s ninth-largest economy.

Likewise, in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), it is the eighth largest economy in the world. According to 2017 estimates, agriculture amounts to 6.6% of the GDP, while industry forms up to 20.7%. The services sector makes up the majority of the GDP, contributing 72.7%.

The country ranks high on the GINI index, which measures income inequality. It scored 53.4 points and is the 10th country in terms of income inequality. Brazil’s major agricultural products include sugar cane, soybeans, maize, milk, cassava, oranges, poultry, rice, beef, and cotton.

While its important industries are textiles, shoes, chemicals, cement, lumber, iron ore, tin, steel, aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, and other machinery and equipment. In addition, in the mining sector, Brazil stands out in the extraction of iron ore, copper, gold, bauxite, manganese, tin, niobium, and nickel.

In terms of precious stones, Brazil is the world’s largest producer of amethyst, topaz, and agate and one of the main producers of tourmaline, emerald, aquamarine, and garnet. China is Brazil’s largest import and export partner. The USA is its second-largest import and export partner.

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Brazil’s exports in 2019
Military and Security

Brazil spends 1.3% of its GDP on its military. Historically, the country has engaged in wars and conflicts with neighbors, and internally. Currently, Brazil’s armed forces are the largest in Latin America by active personnel and also in terms of military equipment.

In 2021, it was the 9th largest military power globally. Brazil does not face traditional security challenges from any of its neighboring states. Moreover, the Brazilian Armed Forces take an active part in UN Peacekeeping Missions, including in Haiti and Lebanon.

However, it faces non-traditional security challenges, such as narcotics and arms smuggling, illegal migration, trafficking in animals, plants, lumber, and illegal exploitation of mineral resources. Furthermore, Colombian (FARC) insurgent incursions in the bordering region remain a challenge.

Environment

The Brazilian landscape is diverse and complex. It contains interspersed rivers, wetlands, mountains, and plateaus adjoining other major features.

Similarly, Brazil contains six major climatic subtypes: desert, equatorial, tropical, semiarid, oceanic, and subtropical. Meanwhile, the different climatic conditions produce high biological diversity in the country.

The country contains a huge portion (60%) of the Amazon Rainforest within its territory. It also contains most of the Amazon River basin, which has the world’s largest river system.

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Brazil contains 60% of the Amazon rainforest.

Deforestation is one of the biggest environmental challenges facing the country.2 Brazil struggles with environmental degradation. Between May 2000 and August 2006, it lost nearly 150,000 square kilometers (58,000 sq mi) of its forest.

Reasons for deforestation include cattle ranching, mining, logging, and agriculture. Furthermore, the current government under President Jair Bolsonaro withdrew support for national initiatives countering deforestation in the country.

Brazil is a signatory of the regional Escazu Agreement, although it has not ratified it yet. Furthermore, it is a party to the Paris Agreement, Minamata Convention, and other regional and international environmental agreements.

In addition, the Brazilian government pledged to reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030. Brazil has established a Ministry of the Environment for its environmental governance.

Interesting Facts
  • The rufous-bellied thrush, a songbird of the thrush family, is the national bird of Brazil.
  • Brazil is the fifth-largest country in the world by land area and sixth-largest by population.
  • Rio de Janeiro holds the world’s largest carnival annually in the first week of March. The 2018 carnival reportedly drew 6 million participants.
  • Football is the most popular sport. The Brazilian men’s national team has won a record five World Cup championships.
  • Brazil contains 7 natural and 14 cultural UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  • The capital city, Brasilia, is a planned city that serves as the national capital since 1960. Previously, Salvador (till 1763) and Rio de Janeiro (till 1960) served as capitals.
  • Brazilwood is the national tree of Brazil.
  • The Amazon River flows through Brazil and is the 2nd longest river in the world. Brazil also contains 60% of the Amazon rainforest.
  • Sao Paulo is the biggest city by population, having 12.33 million residents.

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