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Brazil Government

National Congress building in Brasilia the capital of Brazil.The 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 municipalities.

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 judicial branch.

Executive Branch

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.

Legislative Branch

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.

Judicial Branch

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 courts.

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 do Sul.

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.

Government Philosophy

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 economy.

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 Programme.

Recommended Brazil Government Resources

The Brazil Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The Latin America Readers)
Capturing 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
The 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)
In 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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