Full country name: República Federativa do Brazil
Area: 8,547,403 sq km (3,300,155 sq mi)
Population: 172 million
Capital city: Brasília
People: 55% European descent, 38% mulatto, 6% African descent (according to the 1980 census). In reality, these figures are skewed by whiteness being equated with social stature in Brazil.
Languages : Portuguese
Religion: 70% Roman Catholic; also a significant proportion who either belong to various cults or practice Indian animism
Urbanization : 80% urban population and 20% rural population
Life expectancy : 64.4 years
Literacy rate : Official numbers are very far from reality.
Government: Federal republic
President: Lula Da Silva
GDP: US$650 billion
GDP per head: US$4060 Inflation: 8% (1999)Major industries:Textiles, shoes, chemicals, lumber, iron ore, tin, steel, motor vehicles and parts, arms, soya beans, orange juice, beef, chicken,coffee, sugar
Major trading partners: EU, Central and South America, Asia, USA
Currency : Real (+/- 0.50$us)
Visas: Passports must be valid for at least six months from date of entry. Visas are required for tourists of many nationalities, including Australia, Canada and the USA; visas are generally for 90 days, with one extension of up to 90 days possible.
Health risks: Dengue fever, malaria, meningitis, rabies, yellow fever
Time: GMT/UTC minus 2 hours for the Fernando de Noronha archipelago; GMT/UTC minus 3 hours in the east, northeast, south and southeast; GMT/UTC minus 4 hours in the west; and GMT/UTC minus 5 hours in thefar west
Electricity: Unstandardized; mostly 110 or 120V, though some hotels have 220V; 60 Hz in Rio and São Paulo
Weights & measures: Metric
When to Go
Most of Brazil can be visited comfortably throughout the year, it's only the south - which can be unbearably sticky in summer (December-February) and non-stop rainy in winter (June-August) - that has large seasonal changes. The rest of the country experiences brief tropical rains throughout the year, which rarely affect travel plans. During summer (December-February) many Brazilians are on vacation, making travel difficult and expensive, and from Rio to the south the humidity can be oppressive. Summer is also the most festive time of year, as Brazilians escape their apartments and take to the beaches and streets. School holidays begin in mid-December and go through to Carnaval, usually held in late February.
LAND & CLIMATE
Region: South America
Neighbors: Brazil occupies nearly half of the entire area of the continent and shares common boundaries with every South American country except Chile and Ecuador. To the north it borders Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and the Atlantic Ocean; to the east the Atlantic Ocean; to the south Uruguay; to the west Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Peru; and to the northwest, Colombia.
Size Comparison: Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world. It's about three times the size of Argentina.
The vast Brazilian Highlands, or Brazilian plateau, and the basin of the Amazon dominate Brazil’s landforms. The plateau is an eroded tableland occupying most of the southeastern half of the country. With a general elevation of about 305 to 914 meters (about 1,000 to 3,000 feet), this plateau is irregularly ridged by mountain ranges and dissected by numerous river valleys. Its southeastern edge rises abruptly from the coast in places. Much of the tableland terrain consists of rolling prairies (campos) and extensive forested tracts.
The Amazon Basin covers more than one-third of the country. Here, lowlands predominate, and swamps and floodplains occupy vast areas. Tropical rain forests (selvas) are common. Because of these dense forests, huge areas of the Brazilian lowlands have only recently been explored. On the northern edge of the Amazon Basin lies part of the uplift known as the Guiana Highlands.
The Brazilian coastline, much of which is fringed by a narrow plain, measures about 7,490 kilometers(about 4,650 miles)long. Several deep indentations provide excellent natural harbors.
Major Rivers and Lakes
More than two-thirds of Brazil is drained by the mighty Amazon and its tributaries and the Rio Tocantins, which is a tributary of the Rio Pará (the southern distributary of the Amazon). The entire length of the Amazon from Iquitos, Peru, to its mouth on the northeastern coast of Brazilabout 3,700 kilometers (about 2,300 miles)is navigable by oceangoing ships. The most important navigable streams in the plateau region to the east and south are the São Francisco and Parnaíba. The Rio São Francisco provides needed water for irrigation. Falls and rapids on the Rio Parnaíba interrupt navigation for more than half of the river’s length. Rapids also impede navigation on the Río Uruguay, one of the chief streams of the Río de la Plata system, which flows through Brazil for about 1,000 kilometers (about 600 miles). Brazil’s other great Río de la Plata system streams are the Paraguay and the Paraná, both important inland waterways.
Weather and Climate
The climate in Brazil ranges from tropical in the north, where dense rain forests thrive, to subtemperate farther south. In the valley of the Amazon, annual temperatures average from 27° to 32°C (from 81° to 90°F), with little seasonal variation. Precipitation is heavy, averaging about 2,030 millimeters (about 80 inches) annually and amounting to more than 5,080 millimeters (more than 200 inches) in some areas. Most precipitation occurs between January and June. Tropical conditions also characterize most of that portion of the coastal plain lying to the north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Here, oceanic winds help moderate the high temperatures and humidity. Annual rainfall varies from 1,041 to 2,286 millimeters (41 and 90 inches). In the coastal region south of the Tropic of Capricorn, seasonal variations prevail. Winter temperatures as low as -6°C (21°F) are occasionally recorded in the extreme south. Precipitation averages less than 1,016 millimeters (less than 40 inches) annually in the southern part of the coastal belt. In the subtropical east central Brazilian uplands, higher elevations mean sharp daily variations of temperature with cool nights. This region suffers frequent severe droughts. In contrast, in the highlands to the south and west precipitation ranges from adequate to abundant. Temperatures vary between subtropical and temperate in the southeastern highlands.
Brazil is the cradle of the Amazon and keeper of most of the vast tropical forest that surrounds it and its many tributaries. The forests and savannas of Amazonia are a vital carbon sink for the planet, trapping excess carbon dioxide and converting it into plant tissue. They also have major effects on world climate. Within this ancient steamy resource-cycling machine has evolved the greatest assemblage of biodiversity anywhere on Earth. Twenty percent of all known plant species are found there, and so is a huge but yet unknown proportion of Earth’s animal diversity.
Brazil has grown into an influential nation with heavy demands to supply its own rapidly growing populace and industries, as well as a keen interest to sell its resources abroad. The forests have beckoned cattle ranching, mining, and logging interests, and working families fleeing poverty. The Brazilian government traditionally encouraged such pioneering and built highways to speed the process. Deforestation accelerated alarmingly to about 20,000 square kilometers (about 7,700 square miles) each year between 1979 and 1990. About 12 percent of Amazonian forests have been cleared, mostly in Brazil, leaving extensive areas of rapidly degrading soil, polluted waterways, and thousands of displaced indigenous people. Loss of the forest is a major factor in global warming: Deforestation of Amazonia contributes one-third of the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide.
This situation has slowed in recent years, although the forest continues to be cleared at a rate of 200,000 square kilometers (77,000 square miles) per year (1997). The government has tempered some of its former incentives for industrial development in Amazonia. International development aid is increasingly contingent on the use of sustainable agricultural techniques.
Brazil’s large urban populations put tremendous demands on the local environment. This is particularly true in the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Access to sanitation and safe water is generally good, but millions of urban and rural poor are still without these basic amenities. Concentrations of lead and sulfur dioxide are within the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines in São Paulo because of the use of alcohol as fuel and because of curbs on emissions. Traffic growth still remains a cause of concern because of the resulting levels of carbon monoxide and damage to the earth’s ozone layer.
More than 90 percent of Brazil’s electricity comes from hydropower. Hydroelectric dams have created giant reservoirs in Amazonia that have drastically altered local environments. Because of environmental concerns, the World Bank (IBRD) recently declined a request for funds to support construction of another hydroelectric dam. A single nuclear facility produces about 2 percent of the country’s energy. It is located on the coast between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
The Amazonian forest covers about 40 percent of Brazil. The country possesses many types of wetlands, including various riverine habitats, alluvial systems, and more mangrove swamps than any other nation. Despite the extent of these habitats and the remoteness of some of them, they are all threatened by the large-scale ecological deterioration of much of the entire Amazon Basin.
Brazil’s constitution (1988) asserts the right of the people to enjoy an ecologically balanced environment. By 1992 the protected areas system existed at federal, state, and local levels. At the national level, there were 34 national parks and 22 biological reserves, and several other categories, including anthropological reserves. Overall, about 4.2 percent (1997) of the country’s land was protected. There are two natural area sites recognized under the World Heritage Convention and two sites under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Man and the Biosphere Program, including the extensive Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve System.
Brazil hosted the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the Earth Summit, in 1992. This gathering of more than 100 nations was a cornerstone for several global environmental initiatives and helped define the relationship between environmental and social concerns worldwide. Brazil has ratified a number of international environmental agreements, including those pertaining to Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Wetlands, and Whaling. Cooperative programs for technical environmental assistance are under way with several other nations. Regionally, Brazil is party to the Western Hemisphere Convention (1940), which makes it responsible for protecting nature and wildlife, and the Amazonian Treaty (1978), which provides for cooperation with other Amazonian nations in protection of the Amazon Basin. Brazil supports the concept of continuous transborder preserves in the region.