Country of the World Brazil

About the country Brazil, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.




Lay of the Land: Brazil sprawls across the central and eastern portion of South America and borders all South American countries except Chile and Ecuador. Such huge size naturally means great geographical and cultural diversity. Southern Brazil with its rolling, forested hills and temperate climate is home to those of European background. It is the most industrialized part of Brazil and includes Sao Paulo, perhaps the world's fastest-growing city. The Amazon jungle covers an area half the size of the contiguous United States. Much of it remains to be explored, but it is believed to contain vast reserves of minerals and gemstones, possibly oil, and the world's largest concentration of iron ore, in addition to the obvious wealth of lumber and forest products. The few people indigenous to the Amazon are being exterminated or "acculturated" to make way for the inexorable colonization and exploitation of the area. Brazil's drought-stricken northeast is dry, hot, and very poor. Though one third of Brazil's people live there, it remains an agricultural, underdeveloped, internal colony, generally dominated by the industrial south.

Size: At 3,286,488 sq. mi. (8,511,965 sq. km.), Brazil is by far the largest country in South America and the fifth-largest country in the world. It is greater in area than the contiguous 48 United States.

Population: Brazil has about 117 million people, half the total population of South America. Most are of European stock, but there are substantial numbers of blacks and also a large Japanese colony.

Who Rules: Brazil is considered to be a democracy by the generals in charge. Elections are held and there are a Congress and two political "organizations" (not parties)--the government party ARENA (National Renovating Alliance) and the MDB (Brazilian Democratic Movement). The generals maintain a fine facade of legality and constitutionality.

Who REALLY Rules: The president can close down Congress at any time for any reason--or no reason. Even that is legal, under the terms of Institutional Act No. 5, which gives sweeping powers to the president to deal with anything affecting "national interest."

Human rights in Brazil are in a shambles. The military government's record is simply one of the world's worst. Every form of torture, including the notorious parrot's perch, electric cattle prods, and a wide assortment of horrors, is practiced on the populace. Though the government repeatedly and emphatically denies that torture even exists in Brazil, it does admit to the occasional use of "persuasion" by overzealous investigators.

President Carter's stand on human rights has had one effect on Brazil; the country rejected $50 million in military aid after the U.S. received a highly negative report on the rights situation in Brazil. Since Brazil receives the vast majority of its money from private banks--$10 billion from U.S. banks and their foreign branches--the rejection of the $50 million had chiefly symbolic significance. Washington's leverage is greatly reduced since the mid-1960s, and the violations of human rights will not lessen as long as the generals remain in power.

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