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State

Capital

Brazil

Brasilia

Currency unit

Real

Connections

Amazonia

Climate

Diversity

Military

Portugal

 Poverty

Serfdom

South America

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

History

The largest country in Latin America, with the biggest industry and largest population.

In 1494 Spain had made discoveries across the Atlantic and Portugal in Africa and to the east. In that year the Pope supervised the Treaty of Tordesillas which parceled out the world between Spain and Portugal. Spain was supposed to get the west, but as it happened the coast of Brazil was in Portugal's half of the world. A Portuguese navigator saw the coast of Brazil in 1500 while on his way round Africa. (But possibly earlier in secret)

Natives in this area are usually believed to have been nomadic and non-statist. Until recently there was no evidence of ancient kingdoms. (However, satellite photography of the Amazon area shows signs of extensive cultivation in the past, with fields and town sites. It is difficult to date these remains but they seem to have lasted untilk the European introduction of new infectious diseases - see Amazonia. The Portuguese began to settle in 1530. They set up feudal estates as Spain did. They made slaves out of first the Indians, then Africans. Brazil remained as a Portuguese colony until 1808 when the Regent of Portugal, Dom John, fled to Brazil escaping from Napoleon. He made Brazil an equal part of the kingdom of Portugal and Brazil, that is it no longer had the status of a colony. When he returned to Portugal as King John in 1822 his son Pedro was proclaimed emperor of Brazil. Pedro was overthrown by a military coup in 1889 after which Brazil became a federal republic. Thus Brazil fought no war of independence.

The people of Brazil are exceptionally mixed, the African, European, native and Asian strains fusing to produce a new human type. The culture reflects the origins of the people with African (Yoruba) influence especially strong - as Candomble, the Afro-Brazilian religion. Nevertheless, "the whiter the richer" - that is social class appears to follow genetic origin.

From 1962 there was a military government. During the 1970s and 1980s there was an agreement with the military governments of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay to capture and return dissidents from the other countries. Thus there was a tacit alliance between these regimes.

The Military only left office in 1985 when there were elections for a non-military president. New elections in 1990 saw the election of Fernando Collor as president (replaced in 1992 by his deputy).

There is now a democratic political system with voting for federal and state assemblies and governors. However, the electorate contains a large illiterate component, so that it is doubtful how far the politicians have to answer to the voters. As in the United States television is the main method of campaigning and distorts the result. There remains a large military establishment of the Latin American type, with no real function but to present a constant threat of military take-over and maintain its own privileges.

There is an embryonic secessionist movement in the southern provinces of Rio Grande do Sul. In this area the culture is closer to that of Argentina, a former cattle raising area (though now Soya beans). However, there does not seem to be a wish to join Argentina.

Languages

Portuguese

Yoruba

Bantu fr Angola

Amerindian (Tupi - formerly an official language)

 History

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Politics

Democracy is being re-established after a period of military rule. There have now been two civilian handovers of power by election.

Military rule ended in 1985. 1990 saw the election of Fernando Collor as president. Are the electorate educated enough to operate a democratic system without widescale corruption, bribery and advertising lies? Collor was accused of corruption and when impeachment was threatened he resigned, a useful precedent for Latin American rulers. He was succeeded by his unexpectedly honest Vice President, Itamar Franco.

The military have a history of taking over the government but at present seem unlikely to do so.

A referendum on systems of government in April 1993 rejected both the parliamentary system (ceremonial president) and a return to a monarchy and endorsed the Presidential form.

October 1994 saw the election of a moderate Social Democrat, Cardoso, on an anti-inflation platform. 2002 saw the election of Workers' party leader Inacio Lula da Silva. He was reputed to have leftwing views and wished to see the rich taxed to benefit the poor. However, his freedom of action is limited by the wishes of the US not to allow this.

 History

 Politics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Economics

Brazil has many natural resources, including hydroelectric power, bauxite, iron ore and other minerals, but very little oil.

Its main exports are agricultural, especially coffee and sugar. But it has a large industrial sector and exports cars, mainly to other third world countries.

An attempt to substitute alcohol for petrol in vehicles has not been entirely successful as the cost has turned out higher than oil, though the sugar and cassava from which it is made are grown at home.

The agriculture sector suffers from lack of land reform as there is much land left empty while landless peasants migrate to the rain forest and burn it to produce poor land which has to be abandoned. Successive governments have promised land reform but never deliver, presumably because they are composed of landowners.

Brazil has a huge foreign debt, mostly borrowed by the military regimes, which cannot be repaid but whose interest payments take almost the whole of foreign earnings. Related to this is constant hyperinflation of more than 100% a year and cuts in social welfare education and health spending. The large numbers of street children may be a result of the welfare cuts.

The economy has been described as being of two types in the same country: a modern economy the size of Belgium's, surrounded by a Third world population living at a similar level to Bangladesh. This makes for unstable relations and a very great difference between rich and poor. The theory of trickle down does not seem to be working - indeed Brazil is the classic example to refute this silly theory (silly because it can't be established by observation).

50% of the national income goes to the top 10 % of the population.

The bottom 10% receive less than 1%.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Rights

 Climate

Green/Ecology

Much of the Amazonian rain forest is within the territory of Brazil. Some of it is being cut down for no obvious economic benefit (to make extremely poor and short lived cattle pasture, or poor peasant plots) but with serious ecological harm. According to satellite reports about 7% has already been cut (1991).

It is believed that one effect of the change in rainfall patterns now being experienced is more frequent frosts in the coffee growing areas. As coffee is a major export earner, the value of the coffee lost outweighs the short term gains from losing the forest. The forest is also believed to moderate the climate of many other countries, perhaps the whole world. There is a great loss of species some of which may have medical uses.

Other forest is lost to grandiose hydroelectric projects which were started in the military period.

There have been serious pollution accidents. Radioactive cesium from an abandoned hospital killed a number of people when it was used as jewelry in 1989. This may reflect the low level of mass education. Gold miners in the forest have poisoned rivers with mercury. The industrial city of Sao Paolo is a very polluted area.

The population is growing fast.

AIDS is believed to be spreading fast, however, the government is said to have an effective campaign to reduce the rate of nfection.

The government has had a plan to replace oil imports with home grown alcohol from sugar cane ever since the oil crisis of 1973. Now that oil prices have risen again (2005) this plan has paid off.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Climate

Human Rights

Although there is now a democratic system, the police and army are not necessarily answerable to the politicians. Cases of police brutality are alleged to be common and death squads of off duty policemen are also alleged to be about. The killing of some of the large number of street children is said to take place, as in other Latin American countries.

The President has admitted there is debt slavery.

Climate effects

One degree
Continuing trend of dessication of Amazon

Two degrees
Possible development of sand desert in Amazon. Serious loss of agricultural productivity in much of the country

Last revised 25/06/11


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