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April 2010



Brazil, formally the Federative Republic of Brazil, is slightly smaller than the United States (8,511,965 sq. km. or 3,290,000 sq. mi.). In 2008 the whole of Brazil had an estimated population of 196 million people. Its capital city, Brasilia, has an estimated population of 2.5 million people. Other major cities of Brazil are: Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Fortaleza, Recife, Porto Alegre, Curitiba. Brazil has 26 states and one federal district.

On September 7, 1822, Brazil became independent from Portugal. Under the constitution of 1988, Brazil has a president (currently Luiz Inacio Lula) elected by popular vote for a single four-year term. The next election will be held in October 2010.

Brazil's terrain consists of: dense forests in northern regions including the Amazon Basin; semiarid areas along northeast coast; mountains, hills, and rolling plains in the southwest, including Mato Grosso; midwestern savannahs; the world's largest wetland area; and a coastal lowland. Its climate is mostly tropical or semitropical with temperate zone in the south. Natural hazards faced by Brazil include: recurring droughts in northeast, floods and occasional frost in south.

Brazil has the largest population in Latin America and ranks fifth in the world. The majority of people live in the south-central area, which includes the industrial cities of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte. Six major groups make up the Brazilian population: the Portuguese, who colonized Brazil in the 16th century; Africans brought to Brazil as slaves; various other European, Middle Eastern, and Japanese and other Asian immigrant groups who have settled in Brazil since the mid-19th century; and indigenous peoples of Tupi and Guarani language groups. Intermarriage between the Portuguese and indigenous people or slaves was common. Although the major European ethnic stock of Brazil was originally Portuguese, subsequent waves of immigration have contributed to a diverse ethnic and cultural heritage. Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas. About three-quarters of all Brazilians belong to the Roman Catholic Church; most others are Protestant, members of a growing evangelical movement, or follow practices derived from African religions.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes, 3/2010; 2/2010

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