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BRASILIA: a capital in the Hinterland
Geraldo Nogueira Batista, Sylvia Ficher, Francisco Leito, Dionsio Alves de Frana
'I do not reIer to the width the land oI Brazil has Irom the sea back, because, up until
now, no one has walked its extent due to neglect oI the Portuguese who, being great
conquerors oI lands, do not take advantage oI them, but content themselves with scratching
along the shore like crabs.
Frei Vicente do Salvador, Historia do Brasil, 1627
'There is an Atlantic vocation, owing to the extensive continental coast, which obliges
us to look toward the vast oceanic horizon, oII to the other side oI the sea. And there are the
hills, the Iorest, the serto, the immensity oI horizons that are behind the coastal hills, and
which very soon stirred up the curiosity and covetousness oI adventurers...
Cruz Costa, Contribuio a historia das ideias no Brasil, 1967
The idea oI moving the capital oI Brazil to its central plain dates back to the middle oI
the seventeenth century, when the country was still a colony oI Portugal and there were
already conjectures oI transIerring the Portuguese Court to the new continent. The aims oI the
most important Brazilian separatist movement, the InconIidncia Mineira (1789), included an
interior capital seat, in the town oI So Joo del Rei. With the ascension oI Napoleon which
would make the British Prime Minister William Pitt an advocate oI an interior capital oI
the Portuguese Royal Family was Iorced to move to Rio de Janeiro in 1808.
this time on, the proposition oI an interior capital city, whether Ior political or strategic
reasons, would always be present in discussions oI the territorial and administrative
organization oI the country.
At the time oI the Iirst election oI representatives oI the Brazilian provinces to Lisbon
in 1821, an important document oI Jose BoniIacio de Andrade e Silva synthesized the issue:
'It also seems to us advantageous that we raise a central city in the interior oI Brazil to
receive the Court or the Regency, which could be at a latitude oI more or less 15 degrees, in a
healthy, inviting place, with Iertile land watered by some navigable river. In this way the
Court or the seat oI the Regency would be Iree Irom any external attack or surprise, and this
would also attract the excess oI idle population oI the maritime and mercantile towns to the
central provinces."
AIter Independence in 1822, the debate continued, with greater or lesser intensity, but
without practical results.
However, with the Proclamation oI the Republic in 1889 and the
promulgation oI the Constitution oI 1891, the establishment oI the capital upon the central
plain would become a constitutional precept.
Towards the high central plain
'They want it, without wanting it.
Eliseu Guilherme, Anais da Camara dos Deputados, 1922
By 1892, an Exploratory Commission oI the High Central Plain had already been
nominated, headed by astronomer Luis Cruls and charged with choosing the location oI the
new capital. The extent and depth oI its studies
, in the erudite and elegant tradition oI
nineteenth century natural science, makes their Relatorio da Comisso Exploradora do
Planalto Central (or Cruls Report, 1894) the Iirst technical document pertinent to the
planning oI Brasilia.
The selected area situated in the State oI Goias and which would become known as
the Cruls Quadrilateral`
completely met the suggestions oI Andrade e Silva and
Varnhagen. Among its numerous advantages, the site as iI predestined, due to the 'great
rivers that start in the region..., and |that| by a singular caprice oI nature, have their springs
beginning as it were at a single point...
reinIorced the symbolic dimension oI national
unity and integration ascribed to the capital transIer.
Despite the repercussions oI the Cruls Report, the Iew measures taken can be summed
up in a Iew railway connections with the region. Only in 1922, in the Nationalist context oI
the commemorations oI the Independence Centennial, would Congress approve the
establishment oI the Federal capital in the Cruls Quadrilateral`.
Nevertheless, the Vargas era
(1930-1946) had other priorities: the establishment oI agricultural colonies in the centre-
, and the betterment, though slowly, oI the accessibility oI the area, due to the
improvement in navigability oI some rivers and the construction oI new railways. But legions
oI specialists geographers, military and engineers would not relinquish the issue, as
several technical studies almost unanimously deIended an hinterland capital.
Choosing the Site
'...a little Iurther south, more to the north, Iarther east or west, it doesn`t matter. But
in the central high plain.
Everardo Backheuser (1947)
AIter the end oI the Vargas dictatorship and the subsequent election oI Marshal
Eurico Dutra as President, the location oI the capital became a point oI controversy.
Constitution oI 1946, however, limited itselI to reassert the precept oI an interior capital city.
To an even greater degree than beIore, the issue would be taken up by the military.
And in that same year oI 1946 the Commission oI Studies Ior the Location oI the New capital
was organized, under the presidency oI General Polli Coelho. AIter some reconnaissance oI
the area chosen in 1894 and oI the Mineiro Triangle`, the Commission presented important
preliminary reports
and the Iinal Relatorio Tecnico (1948).
Its more palpable outcome was
a new proposal oI delimitation, the so-called Polli Coelho Perimeter`, an enlargement toward
the north oI the Cruls Quadrilateral`.
In 1947, beIore any decision was taken, the State oI Goias Legislative Assembly
authorized the donation to the Federal Government oI 'all devoid lands within the area to be
chosen Ior the site oI the Future capital oI the Republic...
From that time on, the Goias
political commitment with the capital transIer cause would be unwavering, though the Iirst
expropriation oI the Bananal Estate, where Brasilia would actually be built only took
place in 1956.
Eventually, in 1953 the Congress deIined a third area, the Congressional
, to be analyzed by a new committee, the Commission Ior the Localization oI the
New Federal capital, headed by General Caiado de Castro. Among other measures, it
contracted an American Iirm, Donald J. Belcher & Associates, to interpret aerial photos oI
the area and to indicate the Iive best sites Ior the undertaking.
These tasks were IulIilled in
their valuable Relatorio tecnico sobre a Nova Capital da Republica (or Belcher Report,
In 1954 Marshall Cavalcante de Albuquerque replaced Caiado de Castro and, in the
next year, the Commission would be re-organized as the Commission Ior Planning,
Construction and TransIer oI the Federal capital. Its comprehensive report, Nova Metropole
do Brasil
, was the last technical document on the location oI the new capital city. Besides
establishing the deIinitive site, it also presented an urban proposal Ior the new town oI Vera
Cruz, by Raul de Penna Firme, Roberto Lacombe and Jose de Oliveira Reis
, thereby
reopening Iurther controversy.
Heroic Times
'We need to construct the superIluous, ... because the essential will be done no matter
Juscelino Kubitschek, quoted by Lucio Costa (1994)
In an April 1955 speech in Jatai (GO), then presidential candidate Juscelino
Kubitschek promised, iI elected, to comply with the constitutional article in Iavor oI
transIerring the capital to the hinterland.
Inaugurated in January 1956, on September 19
the same year, he obtained the approval oI Congress
Ior the necessary measures: the
authorization to move the Federal capital Irom Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia (which made its
name oIIicial), the establishment oI the boundaries oI the Federal District (DF)
, and the
creation oI the Company Ior Urbanization oI the New capital (NOVACAP).
A State company, reporting directly to the President and with headquarters in a city
that did not yet exist, NOVACAP would be the main agent in the urbanization process. It had
a wide range oI powers and was the owner oI almost all oI the land in the DF, and the
promoter oI all kinds oI construction. Financially, it had the authority to give guarantees oI
the National Treasury Ior the credit operations and could contract services without a call Ior
bidding, in other words, independent oI regular oIIicial controls.
In practice, its institutional
structure reduced the possibility oI political interIerence in the enterprise and disassociated
local decisions Irom the Federal administration.
From this moment on, events would accelerate. On September 24
, Kubitschek
appointed NOVACAP board oI directors, naming architect Oscar Niemeyer as technical
director in charge oI all architectural design. In October, Niemeyer designed the Iirst oIIicial
building oI Brasilia, the provisional Presidential Residence.
In turn, work began on the
Paranoa River dam
, an airport, a hotel, and some Air Force barracks. By November
Candangolndia, the Iirst NOVACAP encampment, was opened; by December Niemeyer was
concluding the design Ior the deIinitive Presidential Residence, the Alvorada Palace
perhaps his masterpiece in Brasilia.
The output oI Niemeyer and his team, ranging Irom apartment buildings, commercial
centres, churches and hospitals, to government ediIices, would be extraordinary. For the last,
he sought to emphasize their visual impact sometimes with great success, as in the
Cathedral (1958) or the Ministry oI Foreign AIIairs (Itamaraty Palace, 1962) which would
place him at the lead oI Formalist architecture typical oI the period.
The exceptional trajectory oI Oscar Niemeyer (b. 1907) started in 1936, when, as
member oI Lucio Costa's team, he worked directly under Le Corbusier in the design Ior the
Ministry oI Education in Rio de Janeiro. Again together with Costa, he designed the Brazil
Pavilion Ior the 1939 New York World`s Fair. In the early 1940s he met Juscelino
Kubitschek, then Mayor oI Belo Horizonte. From Kubitschek, he received a considerable
commission, the Pampulha Park, that would launch his name internationally. ThenceIorth,
Niemeyer would mature an architectural language oI his own, Iar oII Irom Iunctionalism and
characterized by Iormal and structural invention. His prestige was such that in 1947 he
collaborated in the United Nations headquarters design, in New York. AIter Brasilia, he
consolidated a career oI great productivity, making his architectural oeuvre one oI the largest
ever. And even today, Niemeyer exerts almost monopoly control on Brasilia`s Federal
The urban design selection would be more controversial. Besides the Penna Firme,
Lacombe and Reis proposal, some proIessionals
were in Iavor oI inviting Le Corbusier
(then at the height oI his Iame, thanks to Chandigarh, and, as was his routine, already oIIering
his services to the Brazilian government). On the other hand, Kubitschek hinted at
concentrating all urban decisions in the hands oI Niemeyer. These maneuvers were not well
received by Brazilian architects, then celebrating the international repercussion oI their
Modernist achievements. The compromise solution, reached by the Brazilian Institute oI
Architects (IAB), was the promotion oI a competition. ThereIore, on the same day
NOVACAP was created, the Call Ior the National Competition Ior Brasilia`s Pilot Plan` was
Twenty-six projects were submitted, all instances oI Iunctionalist urbanism, and
the Iirst prize was awarded to Lucio Costa.
Deeply inIluenced by Le Corbusier ideals and designs, Lucio Costa (b. 1902 d.
1998) was one oI the leading proponents oI avant-garde architecture in Rio de Janeiro in the
1930s. He had a key role in the conception oI the Ministry oI Education building (1936), Ior
whose design he assembled a team oI young architects
and persuaded Le Corbusier to come
to Rio as a consultant. In 1937 he joined the National Heritage Service (SPHAN), where he
developed most oI his proIessional work. In the late 1940s he designed a group oI three
blocks oI Ilats, the Guinle Park, which Ioreshadowed the superblock solution he was to adopt
in Brasilia. In his later urban work, he would apply principles similar to those oI the Pilot
Plan in the Barra da Tijuca plan (1969), an area extending nearly 20 km along the south coast
oI Rio de Janeiro.
Braslia`s Pilot Plan
'Nothing is so dangerous as being too modern.
Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband, 1895
Costa`s project was presented in a text oI exceptional clarity (the Report oI the Pilot
Plan Ior Brasilia`
), a general plan Ior the town and a series oI sketches. Taking the
circulation system as his starting point, he proposed a road layout constituted by parallel and
slightly curved expressways in a north-south direction, the main one being the residential
road axis`.
Perpendicular to this axis, and articulated to it by a set oI platIorms which
houses the bus station, the monumental axis`
gives access to the institutional areas: the
Ministries Mall and the Three Powers Square to the east, and the Federal District
Administration to the west.
Urban activities were segregated in distinct sectors (banking, commercial, recreation,
residential etc.) distributed along the residential axis in two symmetrical wings, North and
South. Residential areas were organized into sequences oI superblocks`, 300 by 300 meters,
reserved Ior apartment buildings (in general up on pilotis).
In spite oI the stress on symbols
oI modernity, Costa Iavored a town oI low densities and heights, with a maximum oI six
Iloors Ior residential buildings and 16 Iloors in other sectors.
Braslia and Its Urban Design Paradigms
"Even though an original indigenous Brazilian creation, Brasilia with its axis, and
its perspectives, its ordonnance is intellectually oI French extraction."
Lucio Costa, Registro de uma vivncia, 1995, p. 282
From the end oI the nineteenth century to the middle oI the twentieth, in the West,
urban theoretical speculation and intervention oIten oI an utopian bent had as its main
objective the mitigation oI diIIiculties arising Irom exponential urban growth and the need to
resolve certain issues then considered problematic: health and sunlight, traIIic circulation and
transport, spatial hierarchy and control oI the location oI activities.
Some actions would become exemplary, such as the demolition and reconstruction oI
extensive urban areas, with a view to making them healthier and/or more attractive, and
nearly always resulting in higher real estate values.
Regarding the enlargement oI cities,
besides the urbanization oI adjacent areas,
another trend was the construction oI suburban
residential neighborhoods.
An alternative would be the proposal, in the Renaissance
tradition, oI new urban Iorms, such as the ciudad lineal oI Soria y Mata;
the garden city oI
or the satellite-towns, deIended by Hilberseimer.
As Ior traIIic circulation, worsened by the advent oI the automobile, an eIIective
measure would be the construction oI metropolitan transportation systems, underground or
More as a theoretical approach, the specialization oI roads with the concomitant
separation oI pedestrians and vehicles would be the object oI several designs.
From the
middle oI the last century on, a commonplace solution would be the introduction oI huge
expressways into the urban tissue, breaking up its cohesion and continuity,
in an obsessive
doctrine that could well be called roadway urbanism`. As Ior the distribution oI activities in
urban space, various zoning instruments should be mentioned, which would lead to a
Iunctionalist vision oI the city, as upheld by the CIAM in the Charte d'Athenes (1943).
In the 1950s, this assortment oI urban design paradigms gained currency in
international and Brazilian proIessional milieu,
even to the point oI being subjected to new
critical scrutiny.
Nonetheless Brasilia`s Pilot Plan would be its most outstanding synthesis,
obtaining such recognition that it would inspire projects oI great visibility, like La DeIense
(Paris) and the RockeIeller Empire State Plaza (Albany, NY).
On the other hand, although Brasilia`s design has as its main inIluences Le Corbusier
, this linear city, an archetype oI roadway urbanism
and oI sectorization, to
be expanded only by the addition oI satellite-towns, is nonetheless a beaux-arts interpretation
oI the Iunctionalist arsenal, as made evident by its symmetrical Iramework chosen without
a doubt to guarantee 'the desired monumental quality oI the capital city.
In real liIe, the conIlicting juxtaposition oI expressways and urban tissue resulting in
viaducts, cloverleaI crossings and trenches resulted in hollows, earth Iills and retaining
walls, all mistreating the ground, creating barriers and making even the circulation oI
automobiles diIIicult. The extreme sectoral division placed a rigidity on locations and
imposed grave typological limitations. Finally, the closed symmetrical Iorm would not turn
out to be Iavorable to the articulation oI the whole with its environment.
In one instance, Lucio Costa overcame such handicaps in the superblock, the most
distinctive and inspired physical-spatial element oI Brasilia. Another solution with Corbusian
its Ioremost model is Iound in the work oI Costa himselI, in his design Ior the
Guinle Park (Rio de Janeiro, 1948-54).
In this set oI three apartment buildings (originally
six), he brilliantly explored the possibilities open by the pilotis to lay out the paths oI
pedestrians and vehicles at ground level and to adjust the buildings to the slope oI the site.
Carrying on that experience, in Brasilia`s superblocks he opted Ior a type oI traIIic
separation much simpler than elevated expressways the dead-end access lane, in the same
line oI the neighborhood unit
and the Radburn superblock.
In this manner he was able to
avoid those residual and unavailable spaces present in other sectors oI town, which had a
disagreeable eIIect on the urban tissue, and to obtain a more pleasing scale. However, even
though a success as an urban design solution, the superblock continues to be an expensive
and elitist answer. Accessible only to the Iew, it ended up not being widely applied in the
remainder oI the DF.
The Urbanization of the Federal District
'I have solidarity with the aspirations oI the people, but our relationship is
Lucio Costa (1995), p. 276
A Iirst wave oI migration to the area oI the Iuture DF would be unleashed with
Kubitschek`s promise to build Brasilia. Encouraged by the approval Ior the capital city
transIerence and the beginning oI its construction, that migration would be intensiIied and in
less than halI a century would lead to the more than two million inhabitants oI today. ChieI
indication oI the success oI the capital`s transIer to the hinterland, this population increase
induced an intense urbanization process that went Iar beyond the original expectations oI the
Building Braslia: 1956-60
In those early years when Brasilia was still just a huge construction site administered
by NOVACAP, Kubitschek, assured by the way the project was evolving, abandoned the
previous idea oI a gradual move, to be done over a period oI IiIteen years, and set the
inauguration date oI the capital Ior the 21
oI April 1960,
beIore the end oI his term oI
The demographic data Ior the area oI the Iuture city are impressive. In January 1957,
there were close to 2,500 regularly contracted workers
and in July oI the same year, 6,283
inhabitants (4,600 men and 1,683 women); a census oI May 1959 indicated a total oI 64,314
inhabitants, oI which 23,543 were in Brasilia.
With civil construction which oIIered some
55 oI standing jobs as its main economic means oI support, the candango`
spread around in diIIerent places: NOVACAP civil servants lived in Candangolndia and
Cruzeiro; the building workers proper lived in the encampments oI their diIIerent companies,
always close to the workplace
; and the migrants without regular jobs lived in spontaneous
settlements or slums, here known as invasions`.
Given the lack oI nearby cities, a camp
that began to be settled in 1956, the Free Town, met their demands Ior supplies, services and
entertainment, and Iunctioned as the articulation centre oI this improvised urban system.
The construction oI oIIicial buildings was brought about by an assortment oI private
enterprises, under contract and supervision by NOVACAP. As Ior residential buildings in the
Pilot Plan,
their demand would always be greater than the supply capacity and it only got
worse as the inauguration date approached. At Iirst, NOVACAP engaged social security
institutes oI several workers categories;
but soon it was Iorced by the pressure oI events to
turn to State organs and even private companies.
To meet the cost oI the undertaking, an initial proposal was selI-Iinancing by means
oI the sale oI close to 80,000 lots to raise an estimated 24 billion cruzeiros. The NOVACAP
land selling, however, became a shoddy business liable to corruption charges.
The highly
inIlationary but deIinitive solution was to request resources Irom the National Treasury,
which Iinanced the major part oI the operation, consuming Irom 2 to 3 oI the GNP oI the
something close to 250 to 300 billion cruzeiros or 400 to 600 million US dollars in
values oI the time.
But Iigures would not dim the brilliance oI the endeavor. The implantation oI the Pilot
Plan`s entire urban Iramework and the completion oI nearly all palaces dominated the stage,
inIlaming the imagination and splitting national and international opinions. Brasilia`s saga
had reached its summit; and even though many oIIicial buildings were not Iinished and the
powerIul had no places to live, the inauguration occurred on the set date.
A new Capital city: 1960-76
'A telephone isn`t much Ior one who loves crazily and lives in the Pilot Plan...
II the girl he loves lives Iurther back in Gama...
Song by Renato Matos
AIter inauguration, the high population growth rate would continue, due to the
gradual transIer oI civil servants Irom the old capital and the continued migration. The DF
had become an attraction Ior immigrants Irom every region oI the country, Irom every social
strata and Irom the most diversiIied branches oI activity, in such a way that at the end oI 1960
the population had reached 141,724 (68,665 in Brasilia) and in 1970 it would surpass the halI
million mark, with 546,015 inhabitants (149,982 in Brasilia).
The resolve, or rather, the tenacity oI the migrants oI all sorts to stay in Brasilia (in
Ilagrant conIlict to the elitist urban program, which established a ceiling oI a halI million
inhabitants) would eventually in 1958 cause the NOVACAP instead oI expanding the Pilot
Plan area
to adopt a policy oI urbanization in dormitory suburbs Ior those oI lower
These so called satellite-towns` resulting Irom the expansion oI preexisting
villages, such as Planaltina (1859) and Brazlndia (1933); Irom the consolidation oI
encampments, such as the Free Town (1961, then named Nucleo Bandeirante); and the
creation oI new settlements such as Taguatinga (1958), Sobradinho (1959), Gama (1960),
Guara (1968), Ceilndia
(1970) were located according to a strategy that would Iavour the
preservation oI the Pilot Plan surroundings, justiIied by a sanitation discourse.
Given the Federal Government`s extensive land ownership , a consequence oI the
expropriations carried out since 1956, conIlicts over land possession became Irequent. The
unappeasable housing demands, along with these disputes, led to the creation oI the
Economic Housing Society, SHEB
, in 1962, which had as its agenda the creation oI new
satellite-towns to settle invasion dwellers, a course that would become 'the housing policy oI
most iI not all the DF governments...
ThereIore, besides the Pilot Plan`s occupancy and the growth oI the satellite-towns,
the urbanization process also included the proliIeration oI slums and the establishment oI a
cordon sanitaire
Irom ten to Iorty kilometres wide around the gentriIied capital. A
polynucleus matrix oI territory occupation was thus conIigured, characterized by scattered
agglomerations, extremely low densities and strong spatial segregation. The noble part
Brasilia and surroundings had been appropriated by those involved in the State machine and
by higher income groups, Iunctioning as a Iocus Ior jobs and services around which
gravitated a periphery lacking in equivalent blessings.
Ordering the Federal District: 1977-87
As the population approached the mark oI one million inhabitants,
the urban area
was also stretching beyond the limits oI the DF into the bordering territory oI Goias and
Minas Gerais, in the so called Entorno`, always with the same pattern oI extensive
demographic voids. In the mid 1970s, some attempts oI territorial planning would be made in
answer to a need made obvious with the institution oI the DF Government in 1969;
Iocus was on sanitation and transport.
The Iirst oI the studies was the Structural Plan oI Territorial Organization (Plano
Estrutural de Organi:ao Territorial, PEOT, 1977).
Its analysis highlighted the dilemma
oI two contradicting objectives: the preservation oI the Paranoa hydrographic basin Ior
sanitation reasons, which implied the prohibition oI new settlements in the area; versus the
reduction oI transportation costs and time, which would require a more continuous and
compact urban structure than the polynucleated matrix.
The Iocus on sanitation dominated and the PEOT recommended a priority vector Ior
urban expansion away Irom the Paranoa basin, in the DF southeastern quadrant.
was complemented by two other studies: the Plan oI Territorial Occupation (Plano de
Ocupao do Territorio, POT, 1985)
and the Plan oI Land Occupation and Use (Plano de
Ocupao e Uso do Solo POUSO, 1986).
These plans, eminently physical, established the
DF`s environmental zoning and maintained the interdiction oI Iurther occupation oI the
Paranoa basin. However, this taboo would be broken by Lucio Costa himselI, with the plan
Brasilia Revisited,
in which he proposed the construction oI proletariat blocks` along the
DF main access roads and the creation oI six new residential neighborhoods, some oI them in
the Paranoa basin.
Meanwhile, another peculiarity oI the DF urbanization became evident: its housing
deIicits had not remained restricted to the less Iortunate classes. The swiIt increase in the cost
oI land in the Pilot Plan
and in the South and North Lake neighborhoods, as well as in
some satellite-towns, such as Taguatinga, Guara and Nucleo Bandeirante
also brought
about a repressed demand Ior the middle and higher classes. As a consequence, illegal
appropriations oI public lands by way oI Ialse property titles oIten in environmental
protection areas highly unsuitable Ior urban occupation became quite Irequent. In the hands
oI private developers, these subdivisions would result in the so-called clandestine` or
irregular condominiums`, small closed oII neighborhoods oI high standard single-Iamily
houses built outside routine urban rules.
From this time Iorward, the condominiums would
speedily multiply, standing today Ior more than 40 oI the DF urban area.
In the mid 1980s, the capital city was consolidated, lodging almost the entire Federal
administrative machine. The main tendencies oI growth were established and the urbanized
area had extended signiIicantly to the Entorno. The DF urban complex, with an estimated
population oI 1,392,075 inhabitants (267,641 in Brasilia) in 1986,
had become a typical
Brazilian metropolis presenting location patterns oI prestige, liIe quality and values
decreasing Irom the centre to the periphery.
Urban Preservation and Political Autonomy: 1987 onwards
With the end oI the military dictatorship in 1985,
Brazil entered a phase oI proIound
institutional changes, launched by a Constitutional Convention process. Attaining an
objective expressed since the time oI the city`s inauguration,
in 1987 Brasilia understood
as solely the Pilot Plan was included in the UNESCO`s list oI World Heritage Sites,
becoming the Iirst twentieth century city to receive such a distinction. AIter the 1988 Federal
Constitution, the DF obtained political autonomy with an elected Governor and Legislative
Chamber oI Representatives, responsible Ior land use master plans.
The issuing oI speciIic preservation legislation
and the approval oI a Constitution oI
the DF
made Brasilia the object oI actions oI both Federal and District agencies, in a not
quite harmonious Iashion. Divergences began with the Santiago Dantas Law
, which
attributed the DF urban decisions to agents external to its administration.
The ambiguity
and conIlict oI aims would only get worse in the 1990s.
The Iirst Master Plan oI Territorial Ordering (Plano Diretor de Ordenamento
Territorial, 1
PDOT, 1992)
maintained the ever present orientation oI occupying the
southwestern quadrant, now deIinitively polarized between the two largest urban centres
Brasilia and Taguatinga.
To attenuate the growing discrepancies between satellite-towns, it
established the requirement oI Local Directive Plans Ior each Administrative Region oI the
DF, to identiIy speciIic vocations and to indicate measures Ior social and economic
Conversely, the same administration that prepared the Iirst PDOT adopted, aIter 1989,
an aggressive policy oI slum removal, the Low Income Population Settlement Program`. OI
a clearly populist orientation, this program carried out by the donation oI lots served by
minimal urban inIrastructure and relegating the construction oI houses or shacks to the
dwellers themselves would promote more urban sprawl.
In only Iour years it led to the
institutionalization oI six more satellite-towns: Candangolndia, So Sebastio, Samambaia,
Santa Maria, Recanto das Emas, and Riacho Fundo,
making the Iree distribution oI land
the main electoral currency oI the DF.
With the second Master Plan Ior Territorial Ordering (Segundo Plano Diretor de
Ordenamento Territorial, 2
PDOT, 1997),
macro zoning was established that considered,
at least Iormally, the Entorno as part oI the DF`s urban management. Besides a new
metropolitan centre, consisting oI Taguatinga, Ceilndia and Samambaia (conIorming to the
conventional policy oI southwestern occupation), the 2
PDOT recognized the problems
caused by the clandestine condominiums and introduced a polemic directive Ior their
regularization: the ampliIication oI Sobradinho and Planaltina`s urban perimeters, towns
where they are more densely concentrated. As an outcome, the hasty urbanization oI the
eastern and western quadrants is already in progress.
In 1996, the DF had 1,821,946 inhabitants (257,583 in Brasilia)
; and its
urbanization process had a dismal tale to tell. The exclusionary Pilot Plan design induced
urban dispersion over the entire territory; the ordering plans accepting the Pilot Plan`s
cannons neither contained urban sprawl nor Iormed a cohesive urban tissue, rather most oI
the time it served to legalize situations already in existence. Meanwhile, the DF
administration itselI had a leading role in disrespecting its own directives, even with the
promotion oI programs and projects that were not oI Iirst priority.
Braslia Today
'BSB sacked the Bauhaus...
Song by Renato Matos
Unlike some new capital cities, such as Canberra and Ottawa, Brasilia became an
outstanding metropolis on its own
and is now the heart oI the Integrated Region oI the
Federal District and Entorno (RIDE).
With 2,948,421 inhabitants, oI which 2,051,146 are
within the DF (and, oI these, 256,064 in Brasilia), it is the ninth largest urban concentration in
the country and the one with the highest rate oI demographic growth (3.41 per year).
Actually, it encompasses many worlds and spaces. The capital city proper
concentrates the political decisions and Iinancial resources oI the State and is a sophisticated
place connected to local, national and international circuits oI power. As such, it oIIers an
exceptional quality oI liIe while at the same time only housing a tenth oI the metropolitan
population, whose numbers diminish each year. The World Heritage Brasilia the world`s
largest urban complex designed along rigorously Iunctionalist lines really only exists in the
Iancy oI its champions, since its listing resulted more in the Pilot Plan`s consecration rather
than in consistent preservation measures.
The expectation that a planned core would induce an orderly occupation oI the
territory an essential utopia oI Modernism did not come to pass. Brasilia`s paradigms
were repeated in the metropolitan areas but were done at a bargain and in haste. Spread out
over an area several times larger than that oI a traditional city oI equal population, the
metropolis experiences tumultuous suburban growth with high degrees oI migration
the typical lack oI sewage, pavement and illumination, health, education and security
services, mass transportation, cultural and leisure commodities and so on.
Nevertheless, Brasilia is a remarkable accomplishment that launched the successIul
occupation oI the Brazilian hinterland.
The site chosen by Cruls and Cavalcante de
Albuquerque is oI unequaled beauty, Iurther enhanced by the Paranoa Lake and inspired
landscaping. The relative youth oI the city, together with its proximity to the seat oI power
and the concentration oI resources
, oIIers opportunities that attract both rich and poor.
Even the satellite-towns, with all their hardships, oIIer incomparably better social services
than those oI other regions oI the country. Although the less privileged live outside the Pilot
Plan, they have already secured its surroundings as their own.

In a speech given in Parliament in 1805, Pitt exposed the idea, suggesting some locations and even a name,
Nova Lisboa. Brasil (1960) v. 1, pp. 34-5.
When Brazil became a United Kingdom oI Portugal.
Quoted in Brasil (1960) op. cit., v. 1, p. 41. An anonymous pamphlet published in 1822 suggests Brasilia as the
name Ior the Iuture Capital city; later on, Andrade e Silva would suggest both Petropole and Brasilia.
A noteworthy contribution was the long campaign oI historian Francisco Adolpho de Varnhagen, the Viscount
oI Porto Seguro. In his pamphlet Memorial organico (185), Varnhagen lists 12 reasons Ior the construction oI a
new Capital city, suggests a name, Imperatoria, and agreeing with Andrade e Silva proposes that it be
located at latitude 15 or 16
; as Ior its altitude, he proposes that 'it be at least 3,000 Ieet above sea level, quoted
in Brasil (1960) op. cit., v. 1, p. 139. In 1877 he made a journey to the then Province oI Goias and published his
deIinitive study, A questo da capital. maritima ou do interior?.
In an expedition made Irom July 1892 to March 1893.
This area was Iirst shown in the Relatorio Parcial oI 1894, published in 1896. It is an spheroid quadrilateral oI
160 by 90 km, with 14.400 km
Cruls (1897) p. 18.
On the date oI the Centennial, September 7
1922, a cornerstone Ior the Iuture city was laid a Iew kilometres
away Irom where Brasilia would in Iact be built.
By the Central Brazil Foundation, in a policy that would become known as the March to the West.
See, Ior instance, Castro (1946); Guimares (1946); Backheuser (1947-8) or Demosthenes (1947).
During the Constitutional Convention in 1946, there were deIenders oI the Cruls Quadrilateral`, oI the cities
oI Goinia (State oI Goias capital) and Belo Horizonte (State oI Minas Gerais capital), and oI the so called
Mineiro Triangle` (the westernmost salient oI Minas Gerais), this latter one deIended among others by
Juscelino Kubitschek, then a congressman by Minas. Brasil (1960) v. 3, p. 12; Demosthenes (1947) pp. 13-19).
Brasil (1960) v.3, pp. 288-376 and 388-415.
Ibid, v.3, pp. 415-36.
State oI Goias Law n. 41, December 13
AIter the establishment oI the Federal District deIinitive boundaries. The greater part oI the DF lands was in
Iact acquired with Federal Iunds, even though done through the State oI Goias Government. And since not all oI
the expropriations were properly registered, in the Iuture the question oI land ownership would be extremely
complicated, leading to long drawn out legal disputes.
With 52,000 square kilometres.
With 1,000 square kilometres each.
Albuquerque (1958). Albeit published in 1958, it covers the works done until September 1
Ibid, pp. 190-93
Brasil (1960) v. 3, p. 41.
Federal Law n. 2.874, September 19
Inside the Cruls Quadrilateral`, with some 5,800 square kilometres.
Moreira (1998).
A plain wooden structure, the so called Catetinho` was built in only 10 days, being inaugurated on November
. Ficher e Batista (2000) p. 80
In order to Iorm Lake Paranoa, a Ioremost element oI the city`s physiognomy.
Brasil (1960) v. 4.
The list oI examples is lengthy. BeIore the inauguration, he designed the Congress, the Presidential Palace
(Planalto Palace), the Supreme Court, the Ministries and the National Theater among others; in its Iirst decades,
the Central Institute oI Sciences at the University oI Brasilia (1963), the General Headquarters oI the Army
(1977), the JK Memorial (1980) and all the annexes oI the Congress and Ministries; in more recent years, the
Superior Tribunal oI Justice (1993), the new annex oI the Supreme Court (1997) and the Public Ministry (2000).
Architect AIIonso Eduardo Reidy and landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx.
This is a summary document, asking only Ior the basic scheme oI the city and a justiIying text, that leaves out
the public buildings, implicitly to be designed by Niemeyer. GDF (1991) pp. 13-16. A little while later,
NOVACAP inIormed that the city should have a political and administrative character, with limited industrial
development and a maximum population oI 500,000 (pp. 16-17).
The jury composed by Oscar Niemeyer, Luiz Hildebrando Horta Barbosa, Paulo Antunes Ribeiro, William
HolIord (England), Andre Sive (France) and Stamo Papadaki (USA) reached its decision in a little more than
10 days, announcing it on March 23
, 1957.

Carlos Leo, Jorge Moreira, AIIonso Eduardo Reidy and the latecomers, Ernani Vasconcellos and Oscar
GDF (1991)
Composed oI three parallel avenues, with a total oI 14 traIIic lanes.
With 8 lanes separated by a central 200-metre wide grass strip.
For many, this Iramework suggests an airplane.
In the working out oI the details, additional residential sectors were created: a sequence oI blocks Ior
economical row houses and two neighborhoods oI detached houses on the other side oI the lake (South and
North Lake).
The one exemption being the Central Bank (1976-81), with 20 Iloors. The tallest structure in Brasilia is the
Television Tower, 224 metres high; the tallest buildings are the twin towers oI the Congress, with 26 Iloors
Along the lines oI the beaux-arts works oI Haussmann Ior Paris (1854-68), that would become an important
trend aIter the City BeautiIul Movement or 'city oI monuments, in Peter Hall`s happy description (2002 p.
189), particularly adequate to Brasilia.
As the Iamous Barcelona ensanche (1859), by Cerda, or the elegant extensions oI Amsterdam (1913-34).
Tried out initially in the USA, with Llewellyn Park (New Jersey, 1853), Chestnut Hills (Pennsylvania, 1854),
Lake Forest (Illinois, 1856) and Riverside (Illinois, 1865), the latter designed by Olmsted.
Conceived Ior Madrid (1882) and taken up by Garnier in his cite industrielle (1901) and by Le Corbusier,
since the studies Ior Rio de Janeiro (1929) until his cite lineaire industrielle (1944).
Presented in To-morrow. A Peaceful Path to Real Reform (1898) and resulting in important designs by Unwin
and Parker, as Letchworth (1904), Hampstead (1905-9) and the garden neighborhoods oI So Paulo (1917-19).
Leaving out the preoccupation with transport, Hilberseimer`s exposition in Gros:stadt Architektur (1927)
gives a prophetic image oI the DF urbanization process: 'This big city separation or dissolution in work and
residence zones leads, as a consequence, to the Iormation oI the satellite system. Around the big city core, the
central City, that in the Iuture will be only a town oI work, are situated, circularly and at suIIicient distances,
residential neighborhoods closed in upon themselves, satellite-towns with a limited population, whose distance
can be considerable, with all the modern transportation means and an adequately designed high speed train
system. Even though they have local independence, such residential neighborhoods are members oI a common
body, they stay closely united to the central core, constitute with it an economic and technical-administrative
Starting with the London underground in 1863.
Employed by Olmsted and Vaux in Central Park (New York, 1853), developed by Henard in the rue future
(1910) and obsessively deIended by Le Corbusier, the separation oI traIIic types would be advanced by Stein
and Wright, in a completely diIIerent Irame oI mind, Irom Radburn (Fairlawn, NJ, 1928-33) on.
Along the lines oI Sanders and Rabuck researches, described in New Citv Patterns (1946).
As attested, in the case oI Brazil, by Szilard and Reis book, Urbanismo no Rio de Janeiro (1950).
As in classic books such as Lynch`s The Image of the Citv (1960) and Jacobs` The Death and Life of Great
American Cities (1961).
In architecture, he recommended uniIunctional detached buildings on pilotis (Ireeing the ground Ior
pedestrians), with independent Irames, glass Iacades and Ilat rooIs; in urban design, strict activities separation,
spatial class segregation, specialization oI roads, and pedestrian and automobile separation through viaducts and
overpasses, with the consequent dissolution oI the traditional street. For the urban Iorm, he proposed three kinds
oI agglomerations: units oI agricultural exploitation, linear industrial cities and radio-concentric cities oI
business, government, "oI thought and oI art" ("Towards a Synthesis", 1945, in Le Corbusier, c1946, pp. 69-71).
Only one oI his directions was not observed in the Pilot Plan design, that one regarding the urban Iorm, Ior
which Costa adopted two branches oI linear city, oI industrial character in this line oI divagation. However, the
other two Iorms were represented in Brasilia`s competition: Rino Levi`s design bears a clear inIluence oI the
Ville Radieuse (see Le Corbusier, 1935), and the Roberto brother`s recollects a cluster oI Corbusian agrarian
villages, see Le Corbusier (1959) p. 73.
This leaning, made clear early in the opening oI the Pilot Plan Report (' apply to the technique oI town
planning the Iree principles oI highway engineering, including the elimination oI intersections..., GDF (1991)
op. cit., p. 78, complied with Kubitschek`s express aspiration oI creating a 'city Ior the automobile.
GDF (1991) op. cit., p. 78; see also 'Conceito de monumentalidade (1957), in Costa (1962) p. 281.
As the gratte-ciel cartesien (1935), implanted in the center oI a block enclosed by expressways with
intersections in cloverleaves. Le Corbusier (c1947) pp. 74-7.
Costa (1995) pp. 205-12.
A principle proposed by Clarence Perry in books such as Wider Use of the School Plan (1910), Communitv
Center Activities (1916) and Neighborhood and communitv planning (1929). Among his prescriptions are new

neighborhoods dimensioned in Iunction oI walking distances between housing and elementary schools (600
metres), and the isolation Irom main through roads, to avoid 'the automobile menace, Perry (1929) p. 31.
Developed by Stein and Wright, it is characterized by complete separation oI pedestrians and automobiles by
means oI over-passes and under-passes. Its morphology is composed oI clusters oI detached and semi-detached
houses distributed around dead-ends in order to Iree the interior block Ior gardens, the so-called inner parks`,
Stein (1957) pp. 37-73.
Law n. 3,273, October 1st 1957. The chosen day coincides with the commemoration oI Tiradentes, the Martyr
oI Independence.
By NOVACAP and by private builders.)
Brasil (1960) v. 4, pp. 54 and 243, and GDF (1984) v. 1, p. 10. No data was Iound about the previous
population within the limits oI the DF. In the present article, the Iigures about Brasilia always reIer to the Pilot
Plan and South and North Lake populations all together. As Ior the new population origins, whereas civil
servants and technical cadres came mainly Irom Rio de Janeiro, the laborer majority was Irom the Northeast.
Such a miscegenation would become an essential trait oI the Brasilia identity.
The popular appellation given to those who came as workmen and, by extension, to those born in Brasilia, it is
a word oI AIrican origins that means inIerior` or vulgar`.
As Vila Planalto, Ior works in the Three Powers Square and the Ministry Mall, or Vila Paranoa, Ior the
Paranoa River dam.
As Vila Amauri, Vila Sarah Kubitschek or Lonalndia (Quinto Junior and Iwakami, 'O canteiro de obras da
cidade planejada e o Iator de aglomerao, in Paviani (1991)).
'The Free Town was born,... hitherto the largest agglomeration, with the basic Iunction to provide services Ior
the rest oI the population: shops, Iree Iairs, bars, restaurants, builders` supply shops, and whatever was then
necessary. In order to motivate` those who where arriving, apart Irom being tax exempt, they got lots oI land,
with the provision that these would have to be given back at the Pilot Plan inauguration. All buildings were
necessarily made oI wood, since the settlement was not to be a permanent one..., Ribeiro (1982) p 116. The
Free Town would not lose its importance aIter the inauguration, since even the Pilot Plan should go on
depending on its commerce Ior several years, Pescatori (2002) p. 1.
The oIIer oI housing and the social gradations among the Pilot Plan inhabitants had been taken into account
by Costa; in his Report it is recommended that it should be avoided 'the mushrooming oI hovels either in the
urban or the rural areas; it is up to the Urbanization Company, within the proposed plan, to provide decent and
economic accommodation Ior the entire population, GDF (1991) op. cit., p. 83.
The only institutions in the country then with experience in large scale housing, their engagement allowed the
Federal Government to secure the payment oI their public debt, Tamanini (1994) p. 197 and Frana (2001) p. 5.
Frana (2001)
Moreira (1998)
LaIer (1970) p. 210.
Given the strong devaluation oI the cruzeiro in relation to the dollar Ior the whole period, there have been
controversies concerning these Iigures. See Mindlin (1961) and Vaitsman (1968).
Astonishing the most incredulous, like Norma Evenson. Accepting simple-minded prejudices about Brazil
(possible only in someone unaware oI the degree oI administrative competence required to organize a single
Carnival pageant, deploying precisely Irom 3,000 to 6,000 people in only 70 minutes rigorously timed, at that
which is regarded as the largest popular spectacle in the world), overlooking the hard working routine oI its
people, and disregarding considerable accomplishments such as Belo Horizonte, built Irom 1894 to 1897, and
Goinia, built Irom 1933 to 1942, this author Ielt authorized to state that 'The creation oI Brasilia represented a
triumph oI administration in a country never noted Ior eIIicient administration; it represented adherence to a
time schedule in a society where schedules are seldom met; and it represented continuous hard work Irom a
people reputedly reluctant to work either hard or continuously (1973, p. 155).
GDF (1984) op. cit., v.1, p. 10.
Which would not be conceivable, given the understanding oI the Pilot Plan a complete city`, with the shape
oI a closed Iigure.
The decision was later on criticized by Costa: 'The growth oI the City was anomalous. There was the
inversion known by everyone, Ior the Plan was supposed to be such that Brasilia could be within the limits oI
500 to 700 thousand inhabitants. When it approached these limits, then the satellite-towns would be rationally
projected and architecturally deIined, so that they could orderly expand, quoted in Tamanini (1994) op. cit., p.
Implanted by the Campaign Ior Eradication oI Invasions, whose acronym CEI explains its appellation.
This bias would never be cast aside, as shown by the Directive Plan oI Water, Sewage, and Pollution Control
(Planidro), which recommended a population ceiling Ior the Lake Paranoa basin. GDF (1970).

Subsequently, Social Housing Society, SHIS (1966), Housing Development Institute, IDHAB (1989), and
since 1999, Secretariat oI Urban Development and Housing, SDUH Vieira (2002).
Pescatori (2002) op. cit., p. 3. An attempt to reconsider such a philosophy was the organization, in 1983, oI
the Executive Group Ior the Settlement oI Slums and Invasions, GEPAFI; though more concerned with
community priorities, it was extinct in 1985.
Or, in Le Corbusier words, 'a protection zone without constructions (1925, p. 181).
937,600 inhabitants (228,141 in Brasilia) in 1976; 1,002,988 (228,386 in Brasilia) in 1978; and 1,176,748
(275,087 in Brasilia) in 1980. GDF (1984) op. cit., p. 10.
No more under a Mayor, but a Governor designated by the Presidency. At that time, NOVACAP was
absorbed by the GDF executive structure; oI its previous powers, it only retained a prestigious name and today it
is the agency in charge oI parks and gardens.
Batista, 'The view Irom Brazil, in Galantay (1987) pp. 355-64.
Brasil, 1977. The PEOT was based in previous studies; see GDF (1976).
Batista, 'Problemas e respostas de uma metropole emergente, in Paviani (1987) pp. 208-20.
However, it allocated some areas Ior non-residential uses in the a basin and recommended the implementation
oI a mass transport system.
GDF (1985).
GDF (1986).
Costa (1987).
Some were implanted, as the Vila Planalto, at last legalizing the old and picturesque encampment, and the
Southwest Sector, localized above the South Wing; oI the others, only the Northwest Sector, symmetrically
localized in the North Wing, has been the object oI successive designs.
One oI the Iactors oI this extreme valorization was the retention oI plots Ior apartment buildings in the North
Wing by their major landowner, the University oI Brasilia, delaying Ior decades the occupation oI almost a IiIth
oI the total area available Ior residential use in superblocks and introducing a strong asymmetry in the Pilot
Given the lesser zoning restrictions, these towns soon acquired weight in the DF economic dynamics and
started to lose their peculiarities oI low-income ghettos.
The Iirst was the Quintas do Alvorada Condominium (1977), localized in the So Bartolomeu River basin, in
the DF northeastern quadrant. Malagutti (1996) p. 74.
According to geographer RaIael Sanzio, the urbanized area oI the DF went Irom 40 thousand to 72 thousand
hectares in the 1990s, due mainly to the condominium proliIeration (Nossa, "Brasilia, do planejamento ao toque
de recolher", in O Estado de So Paulo, December 8
2002, p. C3). Today, in Governor Joaquim Roriz
administration (1999-2002 and 2003-2006), they are the DF most serious political and legal issue, reaching
already the scandal pages oI national newspapers.
GDF (1996) p. 121.
Started with the military coup oI 1964, this administration was essential Ior the irreversibility oI the Capital`s
transIer, in an obvious Versailles' eIIect`.
Even beIore, Niemeyer had already indicated the necessity oI preservation statutes Ior the Pilot Plan.
Niemeyer (1960) p. 518.
Thanks to the lobby by some sectors oI the Brazilian intelligentsia under the leadership oI then Governor
Jose Aparecido (1985-1988) aIraid that the country`s redemocratization would yield alterations in Lucio
Costa`s design.
The District government has both state and local responsibilities. BeIore 1969, it had a Mayor; since 1969, it
has a Governor.
In answer to UNESCO`s exigency Ior protection measures, in 1990 Brasilia was listed by the Federal agency
in charge oI historic preservation.
DF Organic Law, July 8
1993, which made mandatory the periodic elaboration oI Directive Plans oI
Territorial Ordering.
The Federal Law n. 3,751, April 13
1960, that established the rules Ior the DF administration, introduced a
static vision oI the Pilot Plan, as something to be kept up without alterations, a posture that would be maintained
by the authoritarian regime.
First by an speciIic Senate committee and, aIter 1969, by the Architecture and Urbanism Council (CAU),
later Architecture, Urbanism and Environment Council CAUMA), whose composition was always Iar Irom
representative oI the community.
Law n. 353, November 18
1992, and GDF, 1992.
A mass transport system, with 40 kilometres oI service and linking Brasilia to the main satellite-towns oI the
southeastern quadrant, is now in experimental operation and surely will bring incommensurable changes to the
urban context.

Until the present, oI the nineteen Administrative Regions, only Sobradinho, Candangolndia, Taguatinga,
Samambaia and Ceilndia have their respective Local Directive Plans approved.
Even though socially relevant, such a policy has systematically disrespected consistent directives Ior
environmental preservation and priority expansion zones. The localization oI the new settlements it promotes
and their low densities make them dormitory suburbs whose characteristics do not encourage the development
oI economic activities that could engender a signiIicant number oI local jobs, and only reinIorce the DF`s spatial
Candangolndia corresponds to the expansion oI the old NOVACAP`s encampment; Samambaia`s
implantation started earlier, in 1983; So Sebastio was a agricultural colony; the others are brand new towns.
Complementary Law n. 17, January 28
1997, and GDF (1997).
The induction oI this new vector goes against all standing directives, particularly the environmental ones.
GDF (2001) p. 7.
As happened with the recently inaugurated bridge over the Paranoa Lake, Iruit oI substantial expenditure in a
roadway system that will lead inescapably to an intense urbanization oI a controlled growth zone.
One hypothesis that could help to explain this Iact concerns the site`s choice. While the location oI those
towns was decided by a tug-oI-war dispute among preexisting important metropolis in the Australian case,
Sidney and Melbourne; in the Canadian case, Toronto and Montreal , Brasilia`s central-west location was the
result oI a long-term decision that drove away most oI the regional disputes. As a consequence, the town was
built in a region quite Iar Irom the inIluence radius oI the two major Brazilian metropolis, So Paulo and Rio de
Established by the Complementary Law n. 94, February 19
1998, the RIDE is comprised oI the DF,
nineteen Goias boroughs and three Minas Gerais boroughs.
IBGE, 2000 Demographic Census.
Since the end oI the 1980s, the DF is the region with the highest relative rate oI migrants in the country.
The Capital city transIer was its main incentive, impelling an economic development that spreads to the
entire Center-west region and starts to reach the North region.
By the 2000 Census, the DF income per capita is the country`s highest (R$ 14,405) and the DF participation
in the National GDP went Irom 1,37 to 2,69 between 1985 and 2000. But it must be remembered that such a
perIormance includes the Federal budget, whose expenses represent almost 60 oI the DF GDP.

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