Population: 178.4 million (UN, 2003)
Year of Independence: 1822, from Portugal
Type of Government: Federative Republic
GNP: $1.34 trillion (2001 est.)
Natural Resources: bauxite, gold, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, platinum, tin, uranium, petroleum, hydropower, timber
Political Parties: Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB); Brazilian Labor Party (PTB); Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB); Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB); Brazilian Progressive Party (PPB); Communist Party of Brazil (PcdoB); Democratic Labor Party (PDT); Green Party (PV); Liberal Front Party (PFL); Liberal Party (PL); National Order Reconstruction Party (PRONA); Popular Socialist Party (PPS); Social Democratic Party (PSD); Worker’s Party (PT)
Brazil spans nearly half of South America as the largest, wealthiest, and most populous nation on the continent. Although most of Brazil is tropical in climate, including the dense rain forests of the Amazon River basin, the southern portion of the country’s upland is temperate. Most of the populace is located in the eastern and southeastern portion of the country, particularly along the Atlantic coast. The cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are the respective capitals of states of the same name, both of which are heavily industrialized; steel, automobiles, textiles, processed foods, appliances, cigarettes, and chemicals are important products. Brazil’s vast natural resources include coffee and iron (Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of both), citrus fruit, soybeans, sugarcane, cocoa, bananas, livestock, quartz, gem stones, uranium, gold, and timber. The distribution of wealth and land is noted for its inequity; about one third of the populous works in agriculture, and in the major cities one third of the population lives in slums. The recent election of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, formerly a shoeshine boy and a left-wing insurgent, has given Brazil’s underprivileged hope for genuine change.