Brazil/Government

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Brazil is a federal republic with 26 states and a federal district. The 1988 constitution grants broad powers to the federal government, made up of executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The president holds office for 4 years, with the right to re-election for an additional 4-year term, and appoints his own cabinet. There are 81 senators, three for each state and the Federal District, and 513 deputies. Senate terms are for 8 years, with election staggered so that two-thirds of the upper house is up for election at one time and one-third 4 years later. Chamber terms are for 4 years, with elections based on a complex system of proportional representation by states. Each state is eligible for a minimum of 8 seats; the largest state delegation (Sao Paulo's) is capped at 70 seats. The result is a system weighted in favor of geographically large but sparsely populated states.

Fifteen political parties are represented in Congress. Since it is common for politicians to switch parties, the proportion of congressional seats held by particular parties changes regularly. The following are the major political parties:

  • PFL--Liberal Front Party (center-right)
  • PMDB--Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (center)
  • PSDB--Brazilian Social Democratic Party (center-left)
  • PPB--Brazilian Progressive Party (center-right)
  • PT--Workers Party (left)
  • PDT--Democratic Labor Party (left)
  • PTB--Brazilian Labor Party (center-right)
  • PSB--Brazilian Socialist Party (left)
  • PCdoB--Communist Party of Brazil (left)
  • PL--Liberal Party (center-right)

President Cardoso was elected with the support of a heterodox alliance of his own center-left Social Democratic Party, the PSDB, and two center-right parties, the Liberal Front Party (PFL) and the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB). Brazil's largest party, the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), joined Cardoso's governing coalition after the election, as did the center-right PPB, the Brazilian Progressive Party, in 1996. Party loyalty is weak, and deputies and senators who belong to the parties comprising the government coalition do not always vote with the government. As a result, President Cardoso has had difficulty, at times, gaining sufficient support for some of his legislative priorities, despite the fact that his coalition parties hold an overwhelming majority of congressional seats. Nevertheless, the Cardoso administration has accomplished many of its legislative and reform objectives.

States are organized like the federal government, with three government branches. Because of the mandatory revenue allocation to states and municipalities provided for in the 1988 constitution, Brazilian governors and mayors have exercised considerable power since 1989. Presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial elections last took place in October 1998. Fernando Henrique Cardoso won the presidential election with approximately 53% of the vote, while his closest challenger, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (PT), had about 32%. The next national elections will be held in October 2002.

Principal Government Officials
President--Fernando Henrique Cardoso
Vice-President--Marco Maciel
Minister of Foreign Affairs-Celso Lafer
Ambassador to the U.S.--Rubens Barbosa
Ambassador to the UN--Gelson Fonseca, Jr.
Ambassador to the OAS--Valter Pecly Moreia

Brazil maintains an embassy in the United States at 3006 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-238-2700). Brazil maintains consulates general in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles; and consulates in Miami, Houston, Boston, San Francisco, and Orlando.

Country name:
conventional long form: Federative Republic of Brazil
conventional short form: Brazil
local long form: Republica Federativa do Brasil
local short form: Brasil

Data code: BR

Government type: federative republic

Capital: Brasilia

Administrative divisions: 26 states (estados, singular - estado) and 1 federal district* (distrito federal); Acre, Alagoas, Amapa, Amazonas, Bahia, Ceara, Distrito Federal*, Espirito Santo, Goias, Maranhao, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Para, Paraiba, Parana, Pernambuco, Piaui, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Norte, Rio Grande do Sul, Rondonia, Roraima, Santa Catarina, Sao Paulo, Sergipe, Tocantins

Independence: 7 September 1822 (from Portugal)

National holiday: Independence Day, 7 September (1822)

Constitution: 5 October 1988

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

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Fernando Henrique CARDOSO (since 1 January 1995); Vice President Marco MACIEL (since 1 January 1995); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Fernando Henrique CARDOSO (since 1 January 1995); Vice President Marco MACIEL (since 1 January 1995); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms; election last held 4 October 1998 (next to be held NA October 2002)
election results: Fernando Henrique CARDOSO reelected president; percent of vote - 53%

Legislative branch: bicameral National Congress or Congresso Nacional consists of the Federal Senate or Senado Federal (81 seats; three members from each state or federal district elected according to the principle of majority to serve eight-year terms; one-third elected after a four year period, two-thirds elected after the next four-year period) and the Chamber of Deputies or Camara dos Deputados (513 seats; members are elected by proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
elections: Federal Senate - last held 4 October 1998 for one-third of Senate (next to be held NA October 2002 for two-thirds of the Senate); Chamber of Deputies - last held 4 October 1998 (next to be held NA October 2002)
election results: Federal Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - PMDB 27, PFL 20, PSDB 16, PT 7, PPB 5, PSB 3, PDT 2, PPS 1; Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - PFL 106, PSDB 99, PMDB 82, PPB 60, PT 58, PTB 31, PDT 25, PSB 19, PL 12, PCdoB 7, other 14

Judicial branch: Supreme Federal Tribunal, 11 judges are appointed for life by the president and confirmed by the Senate

Political parties and leaders: Brazilian Democratic Movement Party or PMDB [Jader BARBALHO, president]; Brazilian Labor Party or PTB [Jose Carlos MARTINEZ, president]; Brazilian Social Democracy Party or PSDB [Teotinho VILELA Filho, president]; Brazilian Socialist Party or PSB [Miguel ARRAES, president]; Brazilian Progressive Party or PPB [Paulo MALUF, president]; Communist Party of Brazil or PCdoB [Joao AMAZONAS, chairman]; Democratic Labor Party or PDT [Leonel BRIZOLA, president]; Liberal Front Party or PFL [Jorge BORNHAUSEN, president]; Liberal Party or PL [Valdemar COSTA Neto, president]; Popular Socialist Party or PPS [Roberto FREIRE, president]; Worker's Party or PT [Jose DIRCEU, president]

Political pressure groups and leaders: left wing of the Catholic Church, Landless Worker's Movement, and labor unions allied to leftist Worker's Party are critical of government's social and economic policies

International organization participation: AfDB, BIS, CCC, ECLAC, FAO, G-11, G-15, G-19, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, Mercosur, NAM (observer), NSG, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMOP, UNTAET, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Rubens Antonio BARBOSA
chancery: 3006 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 238-2700
FAX: [1] (202) 238-2827
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Juan (Puerto Rico), and San Francisco

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Anthony S. HARRINGTON
embassy: Avenida das Nacoes, Quadra 801, Lote 3, Brasilia, Distrito Federal Cep 70403-900 Brazil
mailing address: Unit 3500, APO AA 34030
telephone: [55] (61) 321-7272
FAX: [55] (61) 225-9136
consulate(s) general: Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo
consulate(s): Recife

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)


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