Brazil: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, history, size, population, and government in the country of Brazil.

BRAZIL

NITTY GRITTY

Location--Brazil occupies central and eastern South America, with borders on all South American countries except Chile and Ecuador.

How Created--First "discovered" by Pedro Alvares Cabral in 1500, the territory was claimed for Portugal because it lay on the eastern or Portuguese side of the line dividing Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the New World. (This line was established by the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, which was intended to prevent bickering between the 2 countries involved). Brazil remained Portugal's colony for 3 centuries until, in 1807, the royal court of Portugal fled to Brazil to escape Napoleon. Brazil briefly acquired the same status as Portugal, but the presence of the royal family hindered revolts for independence such as were occurring in other South American (Spanish) colonies. With the overthrow of Napoleon, the royal family returned to Portugal, leaving Dom Pedro, the King's son, as regent in Brazil. In defiance of his family's wishes, Dom Pedro separated Brazil from Portugal, and the country became an independent monarchy in 1822. Dom Pedro's son, Pedro II, ruled Brazil until 1889, when he was forced to abdicate. Brazil became a republic in 1891.

Size--3,286,488 sq. mi. (8,512,004 sq. km.), largest country in South America and 6th largest country in the world.

Population--Over 108 million. Brazil accounts for half of the total population of South America. European, 62% (mostly Portuguese, but also Spanish, Italian, and German in significant numbers); black, 11%; mixed white/Indian/black, 27% but also including a large Japanese colony. These official figures belie the fact that almost no group has maintained complete racial purity.

Who Rules--Theoretically a federal republic with a bicameral legislature elected by all adult literates. However, a 1964 military coup with U.S assistance ousted President Joao Goulart, a leftist, and instituted effective military rule. The last 4 Presidents have been generals.

Who REALLY Rules--Military men and technocrats currently run Brazil, with considerable U.S. and other foreign assistance. The Brazilian Congress exists but is powerless; its teeth were pulled by the 1969 constitution, which gave most of Congress's powers to the executive branch. The U.S. has considerable investments in Brazil, and maintains a large military mission there. Some 100,000 of Brazil's police have received assistance from a U.S.-operated "public safety" program, and at least 344 of the top military officers have trained in Washington's International Policy Academy.

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