The real (/reɪˈɑːl/; Brazilian Portuguese: [ʁeˈaw]; pl. reais) is the present-day currency of Brazil. Its sign is R$ and its ISO code is BRL. It is divided into 100 centavos ("Cents").
- First series 19941997
- Second series 1998present
- Commemorative coins
- God Be Praised controversy
The modern real was introduced in 1994, when it replaced the old currency, the cruzeiro real, as part of the Plano Real, a substantial monetary reform package that aimed to put an end to three decades of rampant inflation. At the time it was meant to have approximately fixed 1:1 exchange rate with the United States dollar. It suffered a sudden devaluation to a rate of about 2:1 in 1999, reached almost 4:1 in 2002 and then partially recovered until the domestic economic crisis of 2015. The exchange rate as of September 2015 was BRL 4.05 to USD 1.00. The currency has since been in a gradual recovery period, reaching 3.0 BRL per USD by February 2017
The dollar-like sign (cifrão) is the currency's symbol (both historic and modern), and in all the other past Brazilian currencies, is officially written with two vertical strokes () rather than one. However Unicode considers the difference to be only a matter of font design, and does not have a separate code for the two-stroked version.
The modern real (plural reais) was introduced on 1 July 1994, during the presidency of Itamar Franco, when Rubens Ricupero was the Minister of Finance, as part of a broader plan to stabilize the Brazilian economy, known as the Plano Real. The new currency replaced the short-lived cruzeiro real (CR$). The reform included the demonetisation of the cruzeiro real and required a massive banknote replacement.
At its introduction, the real was defined to be equal to 1 unidade real de valor (URV, "real value unit") a non-circulating currency unit. At the same time the URV was defined to be worth 2750 cruzeiros reais, which was the average exchange rate of the U.S. dollar to the cruzeiro real on that day. As a consequence, the real was worth exactly one U.S. dollar as it was introduced. Combined with all previous currency changes in the country's history, this reform made the new real equal to 2.75 × 1018 (2.75 quintillions) of Brazil's original "réis".
Soon after its introduction, the real unexpectedly gained value against the U.S. dollar, due to large capital inflows in late 1994 and 1995. During that period it attained its maximum dollar value ever, about US$1.20. Between 1996 and 1998 the exchange rate was tightly controlled by the Central Bank, so that the real depreciated slowly and smoothly in relation to the dollar, dropping from near 1:1 to about 1.2:1 by the end of 1998. In January 1999 the deterioration of the international markets, disrupted by the Russian default, forced the Central Bank, under its new president Arminio Fraga, to float the exchange rate. This decision produced a major devaluation, to a rate of almost R$2 : US$1.
In the following years, the currency's value against the dollar followed an erratic but mostly downwards path from 1999 until late 2002, when the prospect of the election of leftist candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, considered a radical populist by sectors of the financial markets, prompted another currency crisis and a spike in inflation. Many Brazilians feared another default on government debts or a resumption of heterodox economic policies, and rushed to exchange their reais into tangible assets or foreign currencies. In October 2002 the exchange rate reached its historic low of almost R$4 per US$1.
The crisis subsided once Lula took office, after he, his finance minister Antonio Palocci, and Arminio Fraga reaffirmed their intention to continue the orthodox macroeconomic policies of his predecessor (including inflation-targeting, primary fiscal surplus and floating exchange rate, as well as continued payments of the public debt). The value of the real in dollars continued to fluctuate but generally upwards, so that by 2005 the exchange was a little over R$2 : US$1. In May 2007, for the first time since 2001, the real became worth more than US$0.50 — even though the Central Bank, concerned about its effect on the Brazilian economy, had tried to keep it below that symbolic threshold.
Brazil, and sometimes used in bordering countries, especially Brazil/Uruguay and Brazil/Paraguay borders in which every year millions of Brazilians go shopping at the duty-free stores etc. It is also widely accepted in Argentina, not only in shops and duty-free stores in border cities like Puerto Iguazú but also in shops and restaurants in the capital city, Buenos Aires.
First series (1994–1997)
Along with the first series of currency, coins were introduced in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 50 centavos and 1 real; the 25 centavos piece soon followed. All were struck in stainless steel. The original 1-real coins dated 1994-1997 have been withdrawn from circulation since 31 December 1997; all other coins remain legal tender.
Second series (1998–present)
In 1998, a second series of coins was introduced. It featured copper-plated steel coins of 1 and 5 centavos, brass-plated steel coins of 10 and 25 centavos, a cupronickel 50 centavos coin, and a bi-coloured brass and cupronickel coin of 1 real. However, from 2002 onwards, steel was used for the 50 centavos coin and the central part of the 1 real coin.
In November 2005, the Central Bank discontinued the production of 1 centavo coins, but the existing ones continue to be legal tender. Retailers now generally round their prices to the next 5 or 10 centavos.
The Brazilian Central Bank has also issued special commemorative versions of the 1 real coin on special occasions. These coins are legal tender and differ from the standard ones only on the reverse side.
"God Be Praised" controversy
Since 1986, Brazilian bank notes contain the words “Deus Seja Louvado” (God Be Praised). In 2012, a federal prosecutor from São Paulo sought a court order to force the central bank to replace the nation's entire supply of paper currency with bills that do not display these words, arguing that Brazil is a secular state and that this phrase violates the rights of non-Christians and nonbelievers. The Bank responded by stating that the preamble to the Brazilian constitution explicitly states that the democracy was formed “under the protection of God”, and that the state, “not being atheist, anticlerical or antireligious, can legitimately make a reference to the existence of a higher being, a divinity, as long as, in doing so, it does not make an allusion to a specific religious doctrine.”