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Brazil is considered as the fifth most populous nation in the world and the largest in Latin America. It is therefore of interest not only to the Western powers but also to the Eastern powers such as China.
The fact that it is bordered by many countries has resulted in very significant diversity in Brazil. Although Brazil has witnessed socio-political ups and downs, monumental socio-economic and political developments have taken place in this country to an extent of hosting one of the world’s largest sporting events, FIFA World Cup, in 2014.
The name Brazil is coined from a particular wood species (Brazil wood) that grows in the country and is considered to be the major export in years to come. The Brazilian history is approximately 500 years old. The country was discovered by Portuguese Admiral Pedro Alvares. According to Costa, the country then was characterized by a diverse and sparse population (2005).
Though major minerals were not discovered then, the Portuguese government exported Brazil wood to make furniture and red dye. Sugarcane was by then the second major cash crop. The sugar fields required a massive work force that was then unavailable. This forced the colonial masters to open up a big slave market (Costa, 2005). Africans formed the majority of the work force then.
The discovery of gold in the 17th century saw most people come and mine it. However, the reserves were not so much to make gold a major export. The profitability of sugar only served as an eye opener to the large scale growing of coffee for export purposes. Brazil seized power from their colonial masters in 1822 through a bloodless revolt. Dom Pedro I was appointed the first king of the monarchy. Dom Pedro II was to succeed his father in 1841 and later gave up power in 1889.
The abolishment of slave trade came into effect in 1888.The monarchy system of governance came to an end in 1889 and a republic was thereon established with an initial twenty states. A weak central government as opposed to strong efficient state governments characterized this republic (Skidmore, 2008). It enjoyed stability up to 1929 following the Great Depression.
The fact that Brazil had sided with European powers and America in World War I sparked the fall in political and economic stability. The First Republic was ended in 1930 by Getulio Vargas and a military rule imposed thereon. Despite the fact that the constitution guaranteed stability of coffee market, freedom of association and religion among others, Vargas was overthrown in 1945.
The birth of a Second Republic came a year later and the need for economic stability forced presidents to be replaced successively (Skidmore, 2008). The military rose to assume power in 1964 and several violent and abusive generals ruled up to 1985. However, the economy recorded a considerable growth of about 7% annually between 1960s and 1970s. Drastic influx in the oil prices contributed to the drop in economic growth in the 1980s.
The Real Plan was initiated in the 1990s by the then President Fernando Collor de Mello to check on the hyper inflation that had hit the country. Despite the remarkable economic growth enjoyed today, the weak central government and unserviceable foreign debt remain to be the major impediments to more development in Brazil (Costa, 2005).
Stakes of Politics
Brazil recently held their elections to find a replacement to the former President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva. Most political scientists considered him a non-revolutionary leader who had done a good job in maintaining a good economic record.
Though his Cuban and Venezuelan counterparts Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez respectively are great American enemies, Silva’s open view has made the Marxist leader enjoy Western and Eastern support. The recent elections saw two major contenders Dilma Rouseff and Jose Serra battle it out for the presidency.
The election was of interest to the U.S government which really wanted to know whether Brazil had really changed its foreign policy or still followed the independent course. A Federal Senate candidate Blairo Maggi was also on the spotlight for his involvement in the destruction of the Amazon forest (Ireland, 2010).
The destruction was criticized by fellow politicians as a selfish interest that had negative environmental repercussions. Maggi, however, changed and became eco-friendly where he advocated for sustainable technologies to curb the effects of global warming by reducing the rates of deforestation. The drastic change of heart by Maggi was regarded as a cover up to more political ambitions and desires.
Most of these politicians have been found to be critical of the justice system that has led to the arrest of several government officials. According to Ireland, political power supremacy has been seen to play a key role in economic empowerment (2010). China has influenced the political ideologies through increased funding.
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Various Chinese experts regard China as the number 1 investor in the country at the moment having invested more than $ 20 billion. The political leaders are thereby required to abide to certain ideologies in order to enjoy this immense funding. Nonetheless, some leaders are worried that China may fully take over all the major industries in which these politicians enjoy major stakes.
Public Policy Issues- Current Affairs
A recent revelation indicates that the account deficit for 2010 increased to about $ 45 billion from the previous year’s $ 24.3 billion. The deficit was a result of improved economic growth. The deficit which is representative of 2.3 % of the GDP has been greatly attributed to increased imports.
The former president Silva made sure that economic growth was significant. The government has widened its export promotion strategies. The negotiations for Free Trade Agreement have been scheduled. The major market for Brazil exports are Italy, Netherlands, Japan, U.S and Germany. Hunger and poverty eradication formed the major priorities for the government and the creation of an international fund against hunger was Silva’s appeal (Ireland, 2010).
The federal government has three arms namely executive, judiciary and legislature. It is mandatory and universal to vote provided one meets the age requirement of 18-70 years and also literate. A total of 81 senators to represent the 26 states and Federal district are usually elected for an eight-year term (Brown, 2004).
Political parties that are represented in the Congress stand at nineteen. The president also can rule for a maximum of eight years. Political impunity is common where people with political influence escape court verdicts as opposed to those who are socially weak. Jeitos are usually referred to means of getting things done despite the barriers available. The bureaucratic nature of government operations encourages such behavior.
Only those who have close relationships with the powerful go up the political ladder. Most leaders are produced through such networks. An analysis of the political culture indicates that political systems in Brazil are complicated and include the ancient traditional coronelismo political style which was later succeeded by clientelism.
According to Brown, exchange of votes for job positions was characteristic of the two political styles (2004). The present political style is dependent on neither of the two styles but is a direct case of voter participation in electing a particular political leader.
It has been found that Brazilian citizens are not actively involved in politics. A strong civil society translates into a more democratic system (Weyland, 2006). Public participation helps to check on any government excesses and makes crucial public opinion be integrated in major government decisions.
A healthy attitude towards voting helps to inculcate a sense of democracy. A recent study in Brazil showed that 70% would vote if elections were called for immediately regardless of the constitutional calendar dates. According to Weyland, such statistics indicate that democracy is getting better in Brazil (2006). The fact that the civil society in Brazil is weak is an impediment to the realization of total democracy a fact that makes politicians advocate for impunity and nepotism.
In conclusion, Brazil, just as other countries is faced with several political problems. Political goodwill has always played a crucial role in the determination of the nature of institutions established and increased public participation may help to fix things. We can therefore note that although Brazil has witnessed socio-political ups and downs since independence, monumental socio-economic and political developments have taken place in this country to an extent of hosting one of the world’s largest sporting events, FIFA World Cup, in 2014.
Brown, D. D. (2004). Religion and Politics in Urban Brazil. Springer Press
Costa, E. V. (2005). The Brazilian Empire: Myths and Histories. Kingstone and Power
Ireland, R. (2010). ‘Economic Patterns and Politics in Brazil.’ Journal of Latin American Progress, 25 (5), 1231-1278
Skidmore, T. E. (2008). Black into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought. Oxford University Press
Weyland, K. (2006). Democracy without Equity: Failures of Reform in Brazil. Amazon Publishers