government of Brazil is remarkably similar to that of the United
States. It, too, is a federal republic. The country's political system
consists of the federal government, state governments, and
Their constitution, adopted in 1988, gives broad powers to the federal
government. However, the states retain much power. The country is
divided into 26 states and one federal district. Like the United
States, Brazil has an executive branch, a legislative branch, and a
Heading the executive branch are an elected president and vice
president. The current president is Dilma Rousseff of the Worker's
Party. The president's term is four years with a two-term limit.
The president appoints cabinet members. The Cabinet of Brazil
is composed of many ministers who aid the president with general
administration and develop policies. Some of the most prominent
ministers include the Chief of Staff, Minister of Finance, Minister of
Defense, Minister of External Relations, and Minister of Justice.
The legislative branch consists of 81 senators- three per state
and the federal district-and 513 deputies. Deputies are divided among
the 26 states according to population. Senators serve eight-year terms
and deputies serve four-year terms. They may be reelected indefinitely.
15 distinct political parties currently hold federal office. Politicians frequently change parties, however.
At the state level, two different tiers comprise the court
system. "First instance" courts exist at the local level. Judges obtain
office through a competitive exam. There are specialized courts-for
example, bankruptcy and family litigation. A single judge hears cases
at this level. Only murder cases use juries.
"Second instance" courts called Justice Tribunals handle any
cases that are appealled. These courts exist at the state level. Judges
in these courts have been promoted from first instance courts. Three
judges decide the ruling at this level. The Justice Tribunal is the
highest court at the state level.
The federal court system has three levels. Federal courts are
used for military justice, electoral matters, and labor litigations. As
with state courts, there are first instance courts and second instance
If a federal case is appealed past the second instance courts,
it lands in the Superior Courts. These courts are at the federal level.
The president appoints Superior Court judges for life. Superior Courts
only hear appeals regarding constitutionality. When trying cases, they
do not examine factual evidence.
A major criticism of Brazil's judicial branch is that the
appeals process is extremely slow. Appealed cases may take up to 10
years or longer to resolve.
States And Municipalities
Brazil's constitution grants states much power to govern
themselves. They collect their own taxes. They do share a portion of
the taxes with the federal government. The states with the largest
power include São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and Rio Grande
Municipalities are divisions of states and are autonomous. They
make their own laws, as long as they don't contradict state and federal
laws. Some municipalities collect taxes and others attempt to attract
businesses by not collecting taxes.
Brazil's government encourages strong business development. Tax
codes are favorable to businesses. This has resulted in good employment
rates at a time when other countries have been struggling with the
The country contributes significantly to humanitarian aid. For
example, Brazil gave Haiti $350 million in disaster relief after their
earthquake. Brazil recently donated $300 million to the World Food
Recommended Brazil Government Resources
The Brazil Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The Latin America Readers)
the scope of this country's rich diversity and distinction as no other
book has done-with more than a hundred entries from a wealth of
perspectives-The Brazil Reader offers a fascinating guide to Brazilian
life, culture, and history.
Lula of Brazil: The Story So Far
first major English-language biography of the metalworker who became
president of Latin America's largest and most powerful country.
The Throes of Democracy: Brazil since 1989 (Global History of the Present)
The Throes of Democracy, Bryan McCann gives a panoramic view of this
process, exploring the relationships between the rise of the political
left, the escalation of urban violence, the agribusiness boom and the
spread of pentecostal evangelization.
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