Brazil is Latin America's largest, most populous country with a land area of over 8.5 million kml and 156 million inhabitants ( 1992). This vast country is full of contrasts. While Brazil is rich in minerals, metals, and natural resources and is the region's major industrial power and exporter, it is also the world's largest debtor nation, is Latin America's largest oil importer, and has areas of severe poverty and underdevelopment. Furthermore, the country's wealth is unevenly distributed, leading to major differences in the socioeconomic development between the poor northern part of the country and the prosperous south. The Brazilian population includes individuals of European, African, and mixed heritage, in addition to a sizeable ethnic Japanese community. 1
Brazil's GDP experienced a 0.8 percent decline in 1992 but grew at an estimated rate of 4.9 percent in 1993. The country's inflation is still in four digits, and the external debt is over US$120 billion. 2 Under the government's economic reform program, many state industries are being privatized, including petrochemicals, and trade has been liberalized significantly. In the meantime, the government has managed to raise tax revenues and to reduce the rate of inflation. In 1992, Brazil's principal exports were metallurgical products and transport equipment, agricultural products, metallic ores, and chemical products. The country's main trading partners are the United States, the European Union, other Latin American nations, and Asia. The country's current account has become positive since 1992, after two years of deficits during 1990-1991.
As the largest and most populous country in Latin America, Brazil has the highest consumption of energy in the region and consumes more energy than it