Country Listing

Brazil Table of Contents


Government and Politics

Administrative Subdivisions: Composed of 5,581 municipalities (1997) and 9,274 districts (1995). These subdivisions com-bined into twenty-six states and Federal District of Brasília. These states and Federal District form five major regions: North, including states of Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, and Tocantins; Northeast, including Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, and Sergipe; Southeast, including Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo; South, including Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, and Santa Catarina; and Center-West, including Federal District, Goiás, Mato Grosso, and Mato Grosso do Sul. North Region, country's largest, covers 45.3 percent of national territory; Northeast, 18.3 percent; Southeast, 10.9 percent; South, smallest, 6.8 per-cent; and Center-West, 18.9 percent. Brasília seat of govern-ment, housing executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

Government: Federative republic with broad powers granted to federal government. Constitution, reenacted/revised on October 5, 1988, establishes presidential system with three branches--executive, legislative, and judicial. Chief of state and head of government is president. Fernando Henrique Cardoso won 1994 presidential elections in first round on October 3, taking 54 percent of vote, and assumed office on January 1, 1995. President assisted by vice president (elected with president) and presidentially appointed and headed cabinet. Cardoso may stand for reelection in 1998. Bicameral National Congress (Congresso Nacional) consists of Federal Senate (Senado Federal), with eighty-one members (three for each state and Federal District) popularly elected to eight-year terms, and Chamber of Deputies (Câmara dos Deputados), with 513 members popularly elected to four-year terms. Elections for both houses simultaneous and based on proportional representation weighted in favor of less populous states. Suffrage compulsory for Brazilians above age of eighteen. Highest court Federal Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal--STF), whose eleven justices, including chief justice, appointed by president to serve until age seventy. Each state has own judicial system. Federal revenue-sharing program, established by 1988 constitution, provides states with substantial resources. Framework of state and local government similar to federal government. Governors may stand for reelection to four-year terms in 1998. Federal District also governed by governor and vice governor. Governors have more limited powers than counterparts in United States because of centralized nature of Brazilian system and 1988 constitution, which reserves to federal government all powers not specifically delegated to states. States and municipalities have limited taxing authority.

National Election Dates: Presidential, congressional, and state elections occur simultaneously every four years in October and November; held in October-November 1994 and scheduled for 1998 and 2002. Dates of municipal elections: October-November 1996, 2000, and 2004.

Politics: Returned to democratic civilian government in 1985 after more than two decades of military rule (1964-85). President Fernando Collor de Mello elected in November 1989 and took office on March 15, 1990, first directly elected president in twenty-nine years. Chamber of Deputies impeached Collor in September 1992 on corruption charges, and he was removed from office by Senate vote that December. His vice president, Itamar Franco, then assumed presidency. In October 1994, Brazil held elections for presidency, state governorships, Chamber of Deputies, and two-thirds of Senate. Fernando Henrique Cardoso (president, 1995- ) gained election on strength of heterodox alliance between his Brazilian Social Democracy Party (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira--PSDB) and two center-right parties, Liberal Front Party (Partido da Frente Liberal--PFL) and Brazilian Labor Party (Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro--PTB). Alliance seen at time as strictly electoral, with little chance of lasting long into administration. Thus far, it has remained intact, with Cardoso adding Brazil's largest party, Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro--PMDB), to coalition immediately after election. Rivalries among parties for plum federal appointments in key states and regions have, however, plagued coalition, as has factiousness within parties. Congress uses committee system much like United States; there are six Senate committees and sixteen House committees. A notable distinction is absence of conference committees to work out differences between competing legislative texts; instead, bill modified by one house must be returned to originating house for up-or-down vote on modifications. Party leaders play key role in setting voting agenda. Also important are "rapporteurs" for individual bills; negative rapporteur's report can effectively kill bill before it reaches committee vote. Since Cardoso's inau-guration, Congress has devoted itself largely to constitutional reform. Each constitutional amendment requires approval by margin of two-thirds, twice over, in each house (total of four votes). Despite obstacles, Congress has moved constitutional reform forward farther and faster than expected, particularly in economic area.

Political Parties: Fourteen political parties span most of political spectrum. PMDB (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party) Brazil's largest party; PFL (Liberal Front Party) is second largest party and largest on center-right; PTB (Brazilian Labor Party) is populist party confined to several western states; PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party) includes President Cardoso and espouses a center-left social democratic agenda and free-market economy with greater involvement in health care and education; Brazilian Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Brasileiro--PSB) is leftist party; Communist Party of Brazil (Partido Comunista do Brasil--PC do B) still has Soviet-style platform. Other parties include Democratic Social Party (Partido Democrático Social--PDS) and Democratic Labor Party (Partido Democrático Trabalhista--PDT), populist party whose leaders, including Leonel de Moura Brizola, stress greater government role in addressing Brazil's social problems. Liberal Party (Partido Liberal) is also center-right party, popular among small businessmen at state and local levels in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro; National Reconstruction Party (Partido da Reconstrução Nacional--PRN) is party of former President Collor de Mello; Popular Socialist Party (Partido Popular Socialista--PPS) is former Brazilian Communist Party, renamed in 1993; Progressive Party (Partido Progressista--PP) is center-right party supporting market-oriented policies; Progressive Renewal Party (Partido Progressista Renovador--PPR) is another center-right party supporting free-market reforms; and Workers' Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores--PT) is European-style leftist party headed by party founder Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva.

Foreign Relations: Traditionally, United States-oriented but foreign policy increasingly diverse and pragmatic. Foreign policy dominated by trade concerns. Highly active and pro-fessional Ministry of Foreign Affairs popularly known as Itamaraty. Guiding principles of Brazilian diplomacy, as defined by President Cardoso, involve quest for greater democracy in international relations and support for economic multilateralism with clear and defined rules. Defense of principle of sustainable development (see Glossary) at Rio de Janeiro's Earth Summit in June l992, conclusion in 1995 of Uruguay Round of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT--see Glossary), and desire for permanent seat on United Nations Security Council all part of these basic objectives. Parallel regional objectives include need for Brazil to seek regional options for increasing country's bargaining power. Brazilian proposal for creation of South American Free Trade Association (SAFTA) is important step in this direction.

International Agreements and Membership: Party to Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance of 1947 (Rio Treaty) (see Glossary), Treaty of Tlatelolco (see Glossary), and Missile Technology Control Regime (see Glossary). Until June 20, 1997, Brazil refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Memberships in international organizations many and varied, such as United Nations and specialized agencies; Organization of American States (see Glossary) and specialized agencies; regional trade and cooperation organizations, including Common Market of the South (Mer-cado Comum do Sul--Mercosul; see Glossary); international commodity agreements; and multilateral lending institutions.

Data as of April 1997

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Brazil Table of Contents