Brazil is one of the largest, most populous, and most topographically varied countries in the world. It is a country of diverse cultures. One hears the influences of Africa in Brazil's music, tastes the different cultures in its food, and experiences numerous religious festivals throughout the year. Rio is famous as a major tourist destination, while São Paulo is the fourth largest city in the world and covers an area twice the size of Los Angeles.
Brazil contains the world's largest tropical rainforest, the Amazon, which occupies about 40 percent of Brazil's area.
Throughout the centuries, the country has prospered with its abundant natural resources and arable land. Important products have been coffee, sugar cane, and, over time, rubber.
Brazil is a federal republic of 26 states and a federal district. It is governed by a president and a national congress, Congresso Nacional, composed of a Senate with 81 members - three members from each state - and a Chamber of Deputies with 517 members - based on population. The President and Deputies are elected for a four-year term; Senators are elected for eight years. The legal system is based on Roman law. The Federal Supreme Court is composed of 11 justices appointed by the president, following approval of the Senate.
Today, Brazil's economy is the strongest in South America, with large agrarian, mining, and manufacturing sectors and a thriving tourist industry. Brazil is the world's top producer of many agricultural products, and has abundant natural resources.
Brazil's economic potential is immense. The government continues to promote privatization, deregulation, and legislation in the hope of attracting increased foreign investment. Various factors have hampered the progress of fiscal reforms, but the country's economy was one of the first among emerging nations to begin recovery from recession in the late 2000s.
Although Brazil may still be vulnerable to cycles of a boom and bust, current economic reform has brought some stability and growth to the economy - as well as lower inflation rates and unemployment.