World Facts Index > Brazil > History Page 2
MORE LIKE A CONTINENT than a country, the Federative Republic of Brazil (República Federativa do Brasil) is geographically larger than the conterminous United States. It is the world's fifth largest nation in physical size, exceeded only by Russia, China, the United States, and Canada. By far the largest country in Latin America, Brazil occupies nearly half the land mass of South America and borders every South American country except Chile and Ecuador. With 90 percent of its territory lying between the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, Brazil is the world's largest tropical country. The Amazon Region has the world's largest river system; the Amazon is the source of 20 percent of the world's fresh water.
Brazil's history prior to becoming an independent country in 1822 is intertwined mainly with that of Portugal. Unlike the other viceroyalties of Latin America, which divided into twenty countries upon attaining independence, the Viceroyalty of Brazil became a single nation, with a single language transcending all diversities and regionalisms. Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking Latin American country, and its Luso-Brazilian culture differs in subtle ways from the Hispanic heritage of most of its neighbors. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, millions of Italians, Germans, Arabs, Japanese, and other immigrants entered Brazil and in various ways altered the dominant social system. Their descendants, however, are nearly all Portuguese-speaking Brazilians.
Except for a small indigenous Indian population, Brazilians are one people, with a single culture. Anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro attributes a "national ethnicity" to Brazil's melting-pot, disparate population, which has created a society that "knows itself, feels, and behaves as a single people." Unifying forces that have strengthened Brazilians' sense of national self-identity include the nation's multiracial society and its various religions; Brazilian Portuguese, music, and dance, particularly the samba and, more recently, Brazilian funk, a wildly popular version of the musical genres known in the United States as rap and hip-hop; the national soccer team, which won the World Cup championship for the fourth time in 1994; Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pelé), widely acknowledged as the greatest soccer player ever, who won three World Cups with Brazil and was declared an official national treasure by Brazil's National Congress (Congresso Nacional; hereafter, Congress); world-renowned Brazilian Formula 1 auto racers, such as Emerson Fittipaldi and the late Ayrton Senna; and the country's television networks, with their widely viewed soap operas called telenovelas . Brazilian social scientists have used the concept of homem cordial (cordial man) to describe the Brazilian archetype. Brazilians are generally a friendly, warm, and spontaneous people.
With an estimated 161 million people in early 1998, Brazil is the world's largest Roman Catholic nation, and its population is the world's sixth largest. By 2000 Brazil will have an estimated 169 million people. Its population is largely urban; the urbanization rate soared from 47 percent in 1960 to 80 percent in 1996. Even the Amazon region is urbanized; 70 percent of its 18 million people live in cities. The Amazonian city of Manaus, which still lacks a sewerage system other than the river, now has a population of 1.5 million and a highway to Venezuela. Brazil has at least fourteen cities with more than 1 million people. Greater Rio de Janeiro's population totaled 10.3 million in 1995. Greater Sao Paulo, with 18.8 million people, is the world's third largest metropolitan area, after Tokyo and Mexico City. Although Sao Paulo's Metrô is clean and efficiently moves more people in one day than Washington's Metro does in two months, the megacity is disorienting and suffers from extreme traffic congestion and air pollution. To alleviate this situation, Sao Paulo State in January 1998 revived a fifty-year-old plan to build a US$2.5 billion beltway around the city.
The growth of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo slowed during the 1980s and early 1990s, along with internal migration. Moreover, Brazil's demographic growth rate fell from about 3 percent a year in the 1960s to only an estimated 1.22 percent in 1995, even without the adoption of an official population-control program. During this three-decade period, Brazilian fertility rates decreased from 6.4 to about 2.3 children for each woman. The country's new demographic profile shows a generally young population; nearly 50 percent of Brazilians are younger than age twenty.
Some of Brazil's smaller cities, particularly those in the more developed South (Sul) and Southeast (Sudeste), have fared better than its megacities in their innovative approaches to urban ecology. Curitiba, the capital of Paraná, has earned a worldwide reputation as a model city, not only for the developing world but also the developed world, thanks to its former architect-mayor, Jaime Lerner (now governor of Paraná). In June 1996, the chairman of the Habitat II summit of mayors and urban planners in Istanbul described Curitiba as "the most innovative city in the world." Often compared with a city in Switzerland or Sweden, Curitiba is a city that functions, even though its budget of US$1 billion a year is the same as that of Lausanne, a city with only one-tenth of Curitiba's population. Curitiba has taken new approaches to urban ills such as illiteracy, homelessness, transportation and government service shortcomings, unemployment, pollution, and poverty. It has fifty-four square meters of green area per inhabitant, a widely praised trash-recycling system, and a world-class transportation system (used by 85 percent of the city's commuters). Curitiba's innovative professionals also include a heart surgeon, Randas J.V. Batista, who developed a revolutionary and potentially very important new heart-operation technique that surgeons around the world began learning about in June 1996.
Brazil has many other superlatives. The news media include highly professional, large-circulation newspapers and magazines and the powerful television network of Rêde Globo de Televisao (World Network), owner of TV Globo. Brazil has South America's most aggressive journalists. In the 1990s, they have investigated banking scandals, environmental abuses, massacres of Amazon Indians, murders of street children, and governmental corruption. Television reaches more than 80 percent of Brazilian homes. TV Globo is Latin America's largest network and the world's fourth largest television broadcasting system (after ABC, NBC, and CBS). Its telenovelas are watched by 70 million Brazilians nightly and in addition are sold to sixty-eight nations, earning the network US$30 million annually in foreign profits. In 1996 Brazil was the only Latin American country with a communications satellite in orbit. In the print media, Veja , with a circulation of 1.2 million, is Brazil's most influential magazine and the world's fifth largest weekly newsmagazine. All of these media have enabled Brazil to become the world's eighth largest advertising market, with US$4.5 billion spent on advertisements in 1994 and an estimated US$6 billion in 1995.
Brazil has enormous technological know-how and industrial capabilities. As President Fernando Henrique Cardoso explained to the Wall Street Journal in May 1997, "Our people are known throughout the world for their creativity, their ability to learn, to adapt to new circumstances, and to incorporate technical innovation on a daily basis."
Brazil is the most highly industrialized country in Latin America. Its huge industrial base includes steel, automobiles, military aircraft (including the AMX jet fighter), tanks, hydroelectric power, and a nuclear power program. Its industrial base is so developed that the country exports high-technology aviation components, such as aircraft engines and helicopter landing-gear systems. Brazil's Alberto Santos Dumont after all was the "father of aviation." Brazil will construct a small part of the international space station. Major manufactured products include motor vehicles, aircraft (including the internationally popular EMB-120 Brasília commuter turboprop and EMB-145 regional jetliner), helicopters (Brazil has the world's seventh largest helicopter fleet), electrical and electronic appliances, textiles, garments, and footwear. Since lifting its ban on computer imports in October 1992, Brazil has become the world's fastest-growing computer market and a major producer of computer software.
Brazil's major trading partners are the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Argentina, Mexico, and Canada. Exports represent 7.3 percent of Brazil's gross domestic product, and industry accounts for about 41 percent, a pattern found in some developed countries. Once an industrial powerhouse of the developing world, Brazil now counts on services for 48 percent of its GDP.
Brazil's economy, Latin America's biggest and the world's eighth largest, is greater than Russia's and twice as large as Mexico's. Its economy will be the sixth largest in the world by 2015, according to a Ministry of Finance prediction. In 1997 Brazil had an estimated GDP of US$775.5 billion, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
Brazil possesses enormous natural resources, including the world's largest rain forest. The country contains two-thirds of the endangered Amazon rain forest, a region representing 60 percent of the national territory. Sixty-six percent of Brazil's territory is still covered by forest. The Amazon rain forest and Pantanal (Great Wetlands) of Mato Grosso are two of the largest wildlife reserves on earth. The Amazon region is home to half of the earth's species and almost one-third of the world's 250 primates. Researchers in Brazil have identified a new primate species in Brazil six times in six years, including 1996. The Pantanal, the world's largest freshwater wetland (larger than the state of Florida), contains flora and fauna that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, including eighty kinds of mammals, 230 varieties of fish, 650 species of birds, and 1,100 types of butterflies.
The country's vast river systems serve not only as a transportation network but also as an energy source. Brazil's hydroelectric plants provide 94 percent of the country's electricity. Its huge dams, including Itaipu, easily the world's largest hydroelectric power plant, generate vast amounts of hydroelectric power (a potential of at least 106,500 megawatts). Brazil is also the world's largest producer of bananas, coffee, and orange juice. It has the world's largest iron mine and vast stores of precious minerals. It is the world's largest exporter of iron and a major exporter of steel.
Sao Paulo, the financial center of Brazil, is an economic power in itself; the state's GDP of US$240 billion is larger than Poland's and the third largest economy in South America, after Brazil itself and Argentina. Its GDP per capita income of US$7,000 is nearly twice the figure for all of Brazil. Sao Paulo has half of the country's bank accounts. Its largest bank, with US$33.3 billion in assets and 1,900 branches, is the Brazilian Discount Bank (Banco Brasileiro de Descontos--Bradesco), Latin America's third largest and possibly most powerful bank holding company; Bradesco's profits in 1996 totaled US$800 million. The Sao Paulo Stock Exchange (Bolsa de Valores do Sao Paulo--Bovespa) has been one of the fastest growing in the world, at least until May 1997. Bovespa had a market capitalization of US$245 billion, far outranking the Mexican exchange's US$118 billion and five times that of the Buenos Aires exchange. In early 1997, the Bovespa index gained 86 percent, but by early November it had fallen 37 percent, a casualty of turmoil in world financial markets.
As a result of having to adjust to three decades of hyperinflation, Brazil has one of the world's most sophisticated and efficient banking systems. In 1993 the top forty Brazilian banks earned US$9 billion by lending inflation-eroded deposits to the government at high short-term rates. During the period of hyperinflation, the number of banks mushroomed from 106 institutions in 1988 to 246 in 1994. In 1996 Brazil had six of Latin America's ten largest banks, including the number-one ranked Federal Savings Bank (Caixa Econômica Federal--CEF), with US$90.8 billion in assets.
In 1995 Brazil was ranked third, after China and Mexico, for planned investments by American multinational companies. The second largest United States trading partner in the hemisphere in 1995-97, it is first in foreign direct investment from the United States, with US$41 billion. According to President Cardoso, foreign direct investment in Brazil in 1996 totaled US$9.4 billion, as compared with US$3.9 billion in 1995 and was expected to exceed US$14 billion in 1997. Multinationals based in Brazil remitted US$4 billion in dividends to their parent corporations during 1995. The energy, mining, petroleum, and telecommunications sectors expect investments of US$24 billion by the end of the 1990s.
Amid the chaos of inflation, Brazil's private sector had become the most dynamic in Latin America by 1994, with the automobile industry leading the country's economic upturn. Once the symbol of the "economic miracle" period of 1968-74 but declared all but defunct in the 1980s, the automobile sector--aided by tax breaks, an end to the list of banned imports, and the relaunching of the Volkswagen Beetle--was revived in 1990. Brazil's automobile industry, Latin America's biggest industrial complex, overtook Italy and Mexico in 1993 to become the tenth largest producer of cars in the world. Brazil produced 1.58 million cars in 1994 and 1.65 million in 1995, making it the world's ninth largest automotive manufacturer. Helped by a 70 percent tariff on imports by foreign automobile manufacturers, sales totaled about 1.7 million vehicles in 1996 and were expected to reach 2.5 to 3 million cars and trucks by 2000. However, the influx of new cars has made congestion and pollution in already clogged cities even worse. Furthermore, carmakers with manufacturing facilities in Brazil have been uncompetitive because of a tariff reduction on automobile imports mandated by the Common Market of the South (Mercado Comum do Sul--Mercosul; also known as Mercosur. General Motors was planning in 1997 to compete with a new US$9,000 automobile that would be the most affordable one in Brazil.
In the governmental realm, Brazil is the third largest democracy (after India and the United States). It has had civilian democratic rule since the end of the military dictatorship (1964-85). The period of military rule was relatively benign when compared with military dictatorships in the Southern Cone countries of Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. In recent decades, Brazil has been relatively free from revolutionary violence and terrorism, with the exception of a left-wing terrorist campaign in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Indeed, the foreign image of Brazilians as a joyful, fun-loving, and nonviolent people began to fade as a result of the regime's repression, primarily from 1968 to 1972.
The constitution of October 5, 1988, Brazil's eighth, provides for a presidential system with several vestiges of a mixed parliamentary system. Although the 1988 constitution reestablishes many of the prerogatives of the Congress, the president retains considerable "imperial" powers. According to political scientist David V. Fleischer, Brazilian presidents may still have more "imperial" powers than their United States counterparts by being less accountable to Congress and being able to make innumerable political appointments.
Under a system of checks and balances similar to the United States system, the three branches of government operate with substantial harmony and mutual respect, but on rare occasions one of the branches may challenge or reject the interference of the others. However, as Professor Fleischer points out, executive-legislative conflict is inherent in the system because the president is elected directly by a national constituency, whereas Congress is elected by very parochial regional interests. Rural states of the North (Norte) and Northeast (Nordeste) elect proportionately more members of Congress than the industrial and more populous states of the South and Southeast, according to political scientist Ricardo Tavares.
The constitution continues the holding of municipal elections two years after presidential elections. Thus, municipal elections were held in 1988, 1992, and 1996 and are scheduled for 2000 and 2004, while both state and national elections are scheduled for 1998 and 2002. The number of political parties increased from eleven in 1987 to eighteen in 1996, of which eight are significant. Unlike in the United States, where two main parties are national organizations, Brazilian parties are regionally based.
A national plebiscite was held on April 21, 1993, to decide the form of government (a republic or, oddly enough, a constitutional monarchy) and the system of government (presidential or parliamentary), and it overwhelmingly reaffirmed Brazil as a presidential republic. However, a constitutional revision enacted in 1994 constrained the chief executive by shortening the presidential term from five to four years, as of January 1995, in exchange for allowing immediate reelection (approved by the Chamber of Deputies (Câmara dos Deputados) in January 1997 and the Federal Senate (Senado Federal; hereafter, Senate) in June 1997). In mid-1997 there were serious plans to set up a parliamentary government in Brazil by 2002.
With its modernistic capital of Brasília and its booming economy, Brazil was poised in the early 1970s during the "economic miracle" period (1967-74) to become "the country of the future." On being inaugurated on April 21, 1960, Brasília was referred to as "the city of the twenty-first century" and a "monument to the future." However, the US$10 billion needed to build and support the Federal District (Distrito Federal) started an inflationary spiral that was not tamed until late 1994. Far removed from the nation's realities, the sterile capital succeeded only in corrupting the political process by creating an enclave of privilege and self-interest. The 1990 census indicated that the wealthiest 10 percent of Brasília's population of about 500,000 residents earned 75 percent more than the top 10 percent in the rest of the country.
Although Lúcio Costa's jetliner-design for the futuristic capital was supposed to reflect Brazil's aspirations of grandeza (greatness), Brasília's once-dramatic architecture, designed in large part by Oscar Niemeyer, now inspires feelings of eerie alienation. Niemeyer, who is building a museum of modern art in the city, now refers to Brasília as "the city of lost hopes." More than half of the 1.2 million residents in the city's metropolitan area, including most of the capital's poor, live in more than a dozen satellite cities (cidades satélites ), in favelas as far away as 150 kilometers from the city's center. Brasília is reputed to have the highest rates of divorce and suicide of any Brazilian city. In its favor, however, Brasília has little air pollution, its traffic congestion is tolerable, and its crime rate is relatively low.
Despite its many superlatives, the image of Brazil as a land of immense rain forest, cordiality, samba, political conciliation, and racial harmony has masked the reality of urban violence, chronic political instability and corruption, environmental depredation, highly unequal income distribution (the worst in the world, according to the World Bank, extraordinarily high levels of abandonment and abuse of children, and severe economic and social disequilibrium.
Beginning in the early 1970s, crime soared as the consumer expectations of poor Brazilians, raised by television advertising, were crushed. Violence has become an increasingly visible aspect of Brazilian society, in both rural and urban areas, and includes rising vigilantism by citizens. There has also been an epidemic of husbands killing their wives with impunity by invoking the "defense of honor" code. By the early 1990s, homem cordial no longer seemed to fit the Brazilian archetype, as news of massacres of Indians by miners, landless activists by landowners and police, and street children and prisoners by police became more frequent.
Death squads (esquadrões de morte ) of off-duty or retired policemen target criminals in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo and street children, but to little effect. Their actions only seem to generate more crime. Civilian deaths at the hands of the Sao Paulo Police increased from an average of 34.1 per month in 1993 to 56 per month in the first half of 1996, according to the Sao Paulo Police ombudsman office. Between 1992 and 1996, Sao Paulo Police killed 2,203 persons. Military Police (Polícia Militar--PM) members were suspected in at least seventeen of forty-nine massacres in Sao Paulo in the first eleven months of 1995. Efforts to control the Military Police in metropolitan Sao Paulo supposedly improved their record of killings from 1,190 in 1992 to 106 in 1996.
Nevertheless, TV Globo's showing of videotapes of innocent civilians being shot, beaten savagely, or robbed by uniformed Military Police members in working-class suburbs of Sao Paulo in early March 1997 and Rio de Janeiro in early April shocked the country and caused profound soul-searching in Brazil. A poll taken in early April 1997 by Folha de Sao Paulo found that fewer than half of the people surveyed feared criminals more than they feared the police, and that 42 percent of all residents in the city of Sao Paulo had either experienced police violence first-hand, or knew someone who had. According to Jornal do Brasil , in the first half of 1996 the Rio de Janeiro police killed 20.5 civilians per month, as compared with an average of 3.2 persons per month prior to June 1995.
The world's ninth most violent city by 1979, Greater Rio de Janeiro reportedly has recorded more than 70,000 homicides since 1985. In the first nine months of 1995, there were 6,012 homicides in the city, a 10 percent increase over 1994. About 90 percent of Rio de Janeiro's violent crime is drug related and involves minors, whether as victims or perpetrators. In 1994-95 the military was deployed in Rio de Janeiro's favelas to carry out anti-drug-trafficking functions, normally a police responsibility. However, the temporary military presence in the favelas had no real impact on controlling the city's crime problem.
By 1996 kidnappings for ransom of leading businessmen and socialites in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo had increased to an estimated fifty per month since 1994, in comparison with a reported seven in 1988. Kidnappings increased by 22.8 percent and bank robberies by 89.3 percent in Rio de Janeiro State in 1995, in relation to 1994, according to the Secretariat for Public Security (Secretaria de Segurança Pública--SSP). A poll conducted by the DataBrasil Research Institute (Instituto de Pesquisas DataBrasil) in late 1995 found that 76.5 percent of 600 cariocas (Rio de Janeiro residents) felt that the city had become more violent during 1995 than in 1994. On November 28, 1995, at least 70,000 cariocas , rallying under the slogan Reage, Rio! (React, Rio!), marched to protest the violence. By September 1996, Rio de Janeiro's crime rate was declining for the first time in years, with significant reductions in kidnappings and bank robberies, thanks to an energetic new command of the police force.
At the national level, homicide has had a major impact on Brazilian youths. A survey of 59.4 million Brazilian children, published on November 17, 1997, found that homicide had become the leading cause of death among fifteen- to seventeen-year-olds in Brazil, with its rate more than tripling since 1980. The survey, conducted by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (Fundaçao Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística--IBGE) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), found that 25.3 percent of deaths in that age-group were homicides, as compared with 7.8 percent in 1980.
Police corruption has also been a growing problem. In late 1995, the New York Times reported that, according to an internal report on the notoriously corrupt Rio de Janeiro Police Department, an estimated 80 percent, or 9,600 members, of the 12,000-member force were dishonest and collected more than US$1 million a month in bribes or extortion from drug dealers and kidnappers. Brazilians have cited the need for a reformed and unified police force under federal control. On April 7, 1997, in an attempt to change the profile of Brazil's police forces, President Cardoso created a National Secretariat of Human Rights (Secretaria Nacional dos Direitos Humanos--SNDH), which is under the authority of the Ministry of Justice. The federal crackdown on human rights abuses and diminished earning power under the three-year-old national economic stabilization policy led to a wave of nationwide police strikes in July 1997. As a result, Brazilian cities were hit by crime waves.
No issue has focused more world attention on Brazil since the 1970s than the destruction of the Amazonian jungle. Both Amazônia (the Amazon region) and the Pantanal are suffering the effects of human intervention from deforestation, slash-and-burn agriculture, highway construction, illegal mining, drug trafficking, and pollution. Tropical wood cutters have already bought up more than 4.5 million hectares of virgin forest in the Amazon Region, which holds about one-third of the world's remaining tropical woods. Dam building has also destroyed large swaths of rain forest. For example, the Tucuruí Reservoir inundated 2,000 square kilometers of tropical forest.
The topics of rapid deforestation and extensive burning of the Amazon rain forest and environmental pollution received unprecedented international attention in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Water and air pollution had also become a serious problem for Brazil. Sao Paulo State's Tietê is so polluted that in 1992 the state was forced to launch a US$2.6 billion program to revive it. In June 1992, Rio de Janeiro hosted the United Nations (UN) Conference on the Environment and Development (Eco-92). However, the Brazilian government's attention to the problems of deforestation and pollution waned following Eco-92, despite the creation in late 1993 of the Ministry of Environment and the Amazon Region.
In the mid-1990s, discussion of public policies intended to promote sustainable development remained intense. One issue concerns the Pantanal, which is threatened by South America's massive waterway project, Hidrovia, a proposed 3,460-kilometer waterway along the world's fourth-largest river system, the Tietê-Paraná, intended to open the continent for the region's new free-trade bloc. According to a study by the Environmental Defense Fund, "channelization, dredging, channel simplification, and water control structures will drastically change the hydrology in the Pantanal region," causing the eventual "loss of biodiversity as habitats decline and exotic species are introduced via barge traffic and human migrations." However, Brazil shelved the project in early 1998.
As a result of deforestation and highway construction, Amazônia now consists of thirteen different regions that are in a critical political, social, economic, and environmental situation, according to a study begun in 1991 by the IBGE and the Strategic Affairs Secretariat (Secretaria de Assuntos Estratégicos--SAE) of the presidency of the republic. Since 1970 an area larger than 86 million hectares has been deforested. Marcio Nogueira Barbosa, director general of the government's National Institute of Space Research (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais--INPE), citing INPE statistics for 1995, told the New York Times on October 12, 1995, that "burnings in the Amazon Region appear to be approaching the worst levels ever."
During 1992-97 the Brazilian government claimed that destruction of the Amazon rain forest had slowed. However, Brazilian government information on the extent of forest clearing in the Amazon had dried up, and, five years after Eco-92, the government appeared unaware of what was happening in the Amazon rain forest. The New York Times reported that new data released in September 1996 showed that deforestation of the Amazon rose by 34 percent during 1991-94, from 6,913 square kilometers in the 1990-91 burning season to 9,253 square kilometers a year by 1994, consuming rain forest the size of Denmark. A study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released in mid-1997 singled out Brazil as the nation with the highest annual rate of forest loss in the world. The New York Times reported on November 3, 1997, that burnings in the Amazon region were up 28 percent over 1996, according to satellite data.
Environmentalists have charged that tobacco and soybean cultivation, in addition to trans-Amazonian highway construction, has played a major role in Brazil's deforestation. Tobacco plantations occupied 271 million hectares of the nation's arable land in 1990. Brazil, which produced 450,000 tons of tobacco in 1994, is the world's fourth leading tobacco producer, after China, the United States, and India. Soybean cultivation has had a similarly devastating effect on the rain forest. The largest areas deforested in the first half of the 1990s from expanding soybean cultivation were in Mato Grosso State and the southern part of Maranhao State.
Ninety percent of Brazilians live on 10 percent of the land, mostly along the 322-kilometer-wide east coast region. The Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlântica) once stretched continuously along the entire coast of Brazil, extending far inland, and covering an area equivalent to France and Spain combined. Today, less than 7 percent of it remains, all in scattered fragments, and it is one of the world's two most threatened tropical forests. Many of Brazil's 303 species of fauna threatened with extinction are in the Atlantic Forest region, which contains 25 percent of all forms of animal and plant life existing on the planet. The region's biodiversity is forty times greater than the Amazon's.
Brazil's National Indian Foundation (Fundaçao Nacional do índio--Funai) estimates that the indigenous Indian population, with about 230 tribes located in about 530 known Indian reservations in Brazil, totals 330,000 members. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Indians have never had contact with Brazilian government officials. About 62 percent, or 137,000, live in the Amazon region. They are the descendants of what could be the oldest Americans. According to a team of archaeologists led by Anna C. Roosevelt, radiocarbon dating of material in a cave located near Monte Alegre, between Manaus and Belém, shows that early Paleo-Indians were contemporaries of the Clovis people in the southwestern United States and had a distinctive foraging economy, stone technology, and cave art, dating back between 10,000 and 11,200 years ago.
One-tenth of Brazil's national territory is to be set aside for its Indian population, according to the constitution. However, fewer than half of the reservations have been demarcated, and the issue has continued to be controversial. Settlers and gold miners have massacred Indians. In May 1996, the Ministry of Justice published decrees recognizing the existence of seventeen indigenous areas in Brazil, totaling 8.6 million hectares. Each Brazilian Indian (including children) has on average an area of 400 hectares on which to live. By comparison, Native Americans in the United States live on only eighteen hectares per person. Some members of Brazil's Congress believe that the policy gives too much land to only two-tenths of the population.
A decree signed by President Cardoso in January 1996 did not include the Indians as one of his priorities. By permitting states, municipalities, and non-Indian individuals to contest demarcation of Indian land, the decree alarmed indigenous support groups. The executive order could end much of the violence against the Indians, by giving non-Indians a legal forum. However, official figures indicate that 153 of the 554 areas recognized by the government as Indian territories are liable to be revised under the decree. For example, in October 1996 a government decision on whether to uphold claims by 12,000 Indians, most of them from the 30,000-member Macuxí tribe, to more than 40 percent of 225,116-square-kilometer Roraima, Brazil's northernmost state, was put on hold indefinitely as a result of legal challenges by non-Indians. Got to Page 2.
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