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Over a third of Brazil is drained by the Amazon and its more than tributaries. The Amazon is navigable for ocean steamers to Iquitos, Peru, 2, mi 3, km upstream. Brazil is the only Latin American nation that derives its language and culture from Portugal. Pedro Alvares Cabral claimed the territory for Portugal in The early explorers brought back a wood that produced a red dye, pau-brasil, from which the land received its name.

Portugal began colonization in and made the area a royal colony in When Portugal tried to reimpose colonial rule, the prince declared Brazil's independence on Sept. Harassed by his parliament, Pedro I abdicated in in favor of his five-year-old son, who became emperor in Pedro II. The son was a popular monarch, but discontent built up, and in , following a military revolt, he abdicated. Although a republic was proclaimed, Brazil was ruled by military dictatorships until a revolt permitted a gradual return to stability under civilian presidents.

After a military coup in , Brazil had a series of military governments. The election of Tancredo Neves on Jan. Collor de Mello won the election of late , pledging to lower hyperinflation with free-market economics.

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When Collor faced impeachment by Congress because of a corruption scandal in Dec. A former finance minister, Fernando Cardoso, won the presidency in the Oct. Cardoso sold off inefficient government-owned monopolies in the telecommunications, electrical power, port, mining, railway, and banking industries. In Jan. Cardoso was highly praised by the international community for quickly turning around his country's economic crisis.

Despite his efforts, however, the economy remained sluggish throughout , and the country also faced an energy crisis. And in Aug. As leader of Brazil's only Socialist party, the Workers' Party, Lula pledged to increase social services and improve the lot of the poor. But he also recognized that a distinctly nonsocialist program of fiscal austerity was needed to rescue the economy. Civil servants staged massive strikes opposing this and other reforms. Although public debt and inflation remained a problem in , Brazil's economy showed signs of growth and unemployment was down.

Polls in Aug. In , an unfolding bribery scandal weakened Lula's administration and led to the resignation of several high government officials.

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By the following year, his popularity had rebounded as he continued a successful balancing act between fiscal responsibility and a strong social welfare system. But after another corruption scandal surfaced right before the Oct. A new oil field, called Tupi, was discovered 16, feet below the ocean's floor in November Tupi will yield five to eight billion barrels of crude oil and natural gas, making it the largest oil field discovered since Kashagan Field in Kazakhstan in In Oct.

Tokyo, Madrid, and Chicago, Ill. Because of term limits, Lula could not run for a third consecutive term. Rousseff is expected to follow through with Lula's agenda, but faces the task of improving the country's education, health, and sanitation systems. The vote was seen as an endorsement of Lula and his social and economic policies. On April 7, , A year-old former student returned to his public elementary school in Rio de Janeiro and began firing, killing 12 children and wounding 12 others, before shooting himself in the head.

While Brazil has seen gang-related violence in urban areas, this was the worst school shooting the country has ever seen. Tasso da Silveira elementary and middle school, the site of the shooting, is located in the working class neighborhood of Realengo, on the west side of Rio.

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The shooter, Wellington Menezes de Oliveria, age 24, entered the school around 8 a. Oliveira opened fire a few minutes later with a. He killed 10 girls and 2 boys. When Oliveira ignored a police officer's order to drop his guns, the officer, Sgt. Marcio Alves, shot him in the leg. Oliveira then shot himself in the head. A letter found in Mr. Oliveira's pocket made it clear that he intended to die and that the attack was premeditated, but offered no clear motive for the shootings.

In June , top cabinet official Antonio Palocci resigned.

President Rousseff's chief of staff, Palocci, was accused of increasing his personal wealth as a corporate consultant while he was also serving in congress and coordinating Rousseff's presidential campaign. Out of the last four chiefs of staff, Palocci was the third to resign amid accusations.

Palocci's resignation did not cease investigations which continue to explore if there was a connection between Palocci's business dealings and Rousseff's presidential campaign. Around three thousand soldiers and police officers moved into Rocinha, one of the largest slums in Rio de Janeiro, on November 13, It was part of an operation by the government to gain control over troubled areas in the city before the Summer Olympics and the World Cup.

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The operation, named "Shock of Peace," involved military helicopters, tanks, snipers stationed on rooftops, and police squads patrolling alleys. Rocinha, a community of more than 80,, is located near some of Rio's wealthiest neighborhoods. Occupying the area was an important step in imposing order in the city and cracking down on drug traffickers who control most of the city's slums. In the early morning hours of Jan. The cause of the fire was a flare from pyrotechnics used by a band performing on stage at the club.

At the time of the fire, the club was packed with hundreds of students from nearby universities. According to officials, at least people were killed. The fire stunned the nation. President Dilma Rousseff immediately left a summit meeting in Chile and traveled to Santa Maria to console the victim's families.

As she left Chile, in tears, she said to reporters, "This is a tragedy for all of us. On May 14, , the National Council of Justice ruled that notary publics in Brazil could no longer refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. Many saw the ruling as an opening for gay couples to get married in Latin American's largest country. Legal scholars said that with the ruling the National Council of Justice, a member panel led by Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa, legalized gay marriage in Brazil.

The ruling follows recent decisions by lawmakers in Argentina and Uruguay to legal same-sex marriage. The National Council of Justice voted 14 to 1 in favor of requiring notary publics to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. Notary publics would also be required to convert same-sex civil unions into marriages.

In , Brazil's high court ruled in favor of allowing same-sex unions. Throughout June , nationwide protests were held over increases in bus fares. The protesters were mainly part of an organization called the Free Fare Movement and included students and political activists from leftist parties. The Free Fare Movement had been pushing for either decreasing public transportation fares or completely abolishing them and paying for them with tax increases.

Police used rubber bullets and tear gas to separate thousands of protestors. Several journalists were injured. The protests, which became larger as the month went on, were the biggest Brazil had seen in twenty years. On June 25, , President Dilma Rousseff attempted to address the concerns of protestors by suggesting changes to the country's political system. Rousseff met with members of the Free Fare Movement and proposed a Congressional overhaul as well as a change to campaign-finance methods. Ask your bank if your ATM card will work and whether they have an affiliate bank in Brazil.

Credit card fraud and ATM tampering is widespread. Check your bank statements for unauthorised charges. The wet season is from December to March. Common crimes include:. Crime levels in shanty towns or 'favelas' and many satellite cities are especially high. Large scale protests occur frequently. Demonstrations, protests and other large public gatherings can turn violent with little or no warning. Authorities may use tear gas and other riot control measures to disperse protesters. Demonstrations and protests often interrupt traffic and public transport.

Airports and public transport strikes occur, especially during major events or key holidays, causing considerable travel delays. Terrorism is a threat throughout the world, including in Brazil. More information: Terrorist threat worldwide. Many beaches have very strong and dangerous rips, including in Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza. There is the possibility of shark attacks, especially at many north-eastern beaches.

Obey the warning signs. Hazards include aggressive driving, poorly maintained roads and a large numbers of trucks and other slow vehicles on main routes. Stop lights are often not obeyed, especially at night in larger cities. Don't assume cars will stop. You could encounter carjacking or other vehicle-related crimes. Driving in Rio de Janeiro is particularly dangerous. See Safety and security. More information: Road safety and driving.

Due to the high risk of crime, use only registered taxis and limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel. Rideshare apps such as Uber are also available. Don't use unofficial taxis or taxis hailed on the street. Most airports have licensed taxi desks inside the baggage reclaim areas. You can pay for your taxi in advance using a credit card or cash inside the airport rather than in the street. Brazil has a well-developed network of inter-city buses, though travel can be risky due to poor vehicle maintenance, local driving habits and the high risk of crime.

Criminals often work in gangs robbing large numbers of people concentrated in the same place: public transport hubs can be hotspots.

There have been incidents of hijacking and robbery of tour buses in recent years. More information: Cruises.

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Commercial river boats are a common form of transport in some parts of Brazil. Protect your belongings on these boats. Vessels used by tourist operators for river excursions in jungle areas are often basic. Always wear a life jacket. Piracy occurs in the coastal areas of Brazil, particularly in the north-east. Cruise ships on the Amazon River have also been attacked. More information: Piracy. Airport strikes also occur. Make sure your itinerary takes this into account and be prepared for the possibility of extended waits at airports.

If you need to make or change airline bookings while in Brazil, shop around to make sure your payment method will be accepted. LATAM the major airline only allows use of foreign credit cards online with their international website. Travel and tour agents may also have restrictions.

You may need to pay cash or consult with your Australian travel provider. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards.

Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay. If you're arrested or imprisoned, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of prison. Penalties for possession or trafficking of illegal drugs in Brazil are severe and include lengthy imprisonment in local jails. More information: Carrying or using drugs.

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By law, you must carry your passport or a form of identification issued by the Brazilian Government at all times. When you're out, carry a photocopy of your passport along with original identification such as a driver's licence. Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:. More information: Staying within the law.

Under Brazilian law, Australian-Brazilian dual nationals must enter and exit Brazil using their Brazilian passport. If you're a dual national male aged 18 years or older, you'll be required to register for military service if you reside long term in Brazil. Contact a Brazilian Embassy or Consulate for advice on your obligations. Homosexual activity is not illegal in Brazil but there are some local sensitivities, particularly in rural communities.

Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront. More information: Travel insurance. Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.