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Country Profiles: Brazil


Flag, map and facts courtesy of CIA World Factbook 2002

Background Following three centuries under the rule of Portugal, Brazil became an independent nation in 1822. By far the largest and most populous country in South America, Brazil has overcome more than half a century of military intervention in the governance of the country to pursue industrial and agricultural growth and development of the interior. Exploiting vast natural resources and a large labor pool, Brazil became South America's leading economic power by the 1970s. Highly unequal income distribution remains a pressing problem.
Location
Map of Brazil
Eastern South America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean
Area total: 8,511,965 sq km
land: 8,456,510 sq km
note: includes Arquipelago de Fernando de Noronha, Atol das Rocas, Ilha da Trindade, Ilhas Martin Vaz, and Penedos de Sao Pedro e Sao Paulo
water: 55,455 sq km
Area - comparative slightly smaller than the U.S.
Climate mostly tropical, but temperate in south
Terrain mostly flat to rolling lowlands in north; some plains, hills, mountains, and narrow coastal belt
Elevation extremes lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pico da Neblina 3,014 m
Natural resources bauxite, gold, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, platinum, tin, uranium, petroleum, hydropower, timber
Land use arable land: 6%
permanent crops: 2%
other: 92% (1998 est.)
Natural hazards recurring droughts in northeast; floods and occasional frost in south
Environment - current issues deforestation in Amazon Basin destroys the habitat and endangers a multitude of plant and animal species indigenous to the area; there is a lucrative illegal wildlife trade; 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; wetland degradation; severe oil spills
Geography - note largest country in South America; shares common boundaries with every South American country except Chile and Ecuador
Population 176,029,560 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure 0-14 years: 28% (male 25,140,954; female 24,199,276)
15-64 years: 66.4% (male 57,424,151; female 59,409,928)
65 years and over: 5.6% (male 3,992,017; female 5,863,234) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate 0.87% (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate 35.87 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth total population: 63.55 years
female: 67.91 years (2002 est.)
male: 59.4 years
Ethnic groups white (includes Portuguese, German, Italian, Spanish, Polish) 55%, mixed white and black 38%, black 6%, other (includes Japanese, Arab, Amerindian) 1%
Religions Roman Catholic (nominal) 80%
Languages Portuguese (official), Spanish, English, French
Literacy definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 83.3%
male: 83.3%
female: 83.2% (1995 est.)
Government type federative republic
Capital Brasilia
Independence 7 September 1822 (from Portugal)
Legal system based on Roman codes; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage voluntary between 16 and 18 years of age and over 70; compulsory over 18 and under 70 years of age
Flag description green with a large yellow diamond in the center bearing a blue celestial globe with 27 white five-pointed stars (one for each state and the Federal District) arranged in the same pattern as the night sky over Brazil; the globe has a white equatorial band with the motto ORDEM E PROGRESSO (Order and Progress)

Flag of Brazil
Economy - overview Possessing large and well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and service sectors, Brazil's economy outweighs that of all other South American countries and is expanding its presence in world markets. The maintenance of large current account deficits via capital account surpluses became problematic as investors became more risk averse to emerging market exposure as a consequence of the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and the Russian bond default in August 1998. After crafting a fiscal adjustment program and pledging progress on structural reform, Brazil received a $41.5 billion IMF-led international support program in November 1998. In January 1999, the Brazilian Central Bank announced that the real would no longer be pegged to the U.S. dollar. This devaluation helped moderate the downturn in economic growth in 1999 that investors had expressed concerns about over the summer of 1998, and the country posted moderate GDP growth. Economic growth slowed considerably in 2001 - to less than 2% - because of a slowdown in major markets and the hiking of interest rates by the Central Bank to combat inflationary pressures. Investor confidence was strong at yearend 2001, in part because of the strong recovery in the trade balance.
GDP - per capita purchasing power parity - $7,400 (2000 est.)
Population below poverty line 22% (1998 est.)
Labor force 79 million (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate 6.4% (2001 est.)
Industries textiles, shoes, chemicals, cement, lumber, iron ore, tin, steel, aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, other machinery and equipment
Agriculture - products coffee, soybeans, wheat, rice, corn, sugarcane, cocoa, citrus; beef
Exports - commodities manufactures, iron ore, soybeans, footwear, coffee, autos
Imports - commodities machinery and equipment, chemical products, oil, electricity, autos and auto parts

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