Panama constitutes the last part of a natural land bridge between the North American and South American continents. It borders Costa Rica to the west and Colombia to the east.

(In Detail) (Full size)
National motto: Pro Mundi Beneficio (Latin: For the Benefit of the World)
Official language Spanish (Official), (English and indigenous languages on the Atlantic coast)
Capital Panama City
President Mart�Torrijos
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 115th
78,200 km²
 - Total
 - Density
Ranked 131st
3,000,463 (July 2004 est.)
 - Declared
From Colombia
November 3, 1903
Currency Balboa
Time zone UTC -5
National anthem [[Himno Istme񯝝
Internet TLD .pa
Calling Code 507


Main article: History of Panama

Indeed much of Panama's domestic politics and international diplomacy in the 20th century were tied to the Panama Canal. At the turn of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt pursued United States diplomatic efforts to facilitate a deal that would allow it to take over French canal operations started by Ferdinand de Lesseps. In November 1903, political and naval maneuverings by the United States helped a small number of Panamanian rebels to secede from Colombia. On November 3, the rebels installed Manuel Amador Guerrero as President and declared Panama an independent Republic. The new republic was immediately recognized by the United States, and within three weeks, representatives of the fledgling republic signed the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty which granted rights to the United States to build and administer the Panama Canal. This treaty became a contentious diplomatic issue between the United States and Panama until the signing of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties in 1977.

The Panamanian government went through periods of political instability and corruption and at various times in its history, the mandate of an elected president terminated prematurely. In 1968, Gen. Omar Torrijos toppled the government of the recently elected Arnulfo Arias Madrid and became the virtual uncontested leader of Panama until his death in an airplane accident in 1981. After Torrijos's death, power eventually became concentrated in the hands of Gen. Manuel Noriega. Relations with the United States government soured by the end of the 1980s.

In December 1989, the United States invaded Panama in a large military operation codenamed Operation Just Cause involving 25,000 United States troops. Ostensibly, the death of a U.S. soldier in Panama at a Panamanian Defense Forces roadblock was one of the precipitating causes for the invasion,. However, according to the Panamanian government at the time, the officer's vehicle attempted to drive through the roadblock which was located near a sensitive military location. A few hours after the invasion, in a ceremony that took place inside a US military base in the former Canal Zone, Guillermo Endara was sworn in as the new president of Panama. The invasion occurred just days before the Panama Canal administration was to be turned over to Panamanian control, according to the timetable set up by the Torrijos-Carter Treaties. After the invasion, Noriega sought asylum in the Vatican diplomatic mission, but after a few days turned himself in to the American military. Noriega was immediately taken to Florida where he was formally charged and arrested by United States federal authorities.

Charges of corruption and cronyism still continue to be levelled against the government by opposition parties and press.

Under the Torrijos-Carter Treaty, on December 31, 1999, the United States returned all canal-related lands to Panama. Panama also gained control of canal-related buildings and infrastructure as well as full administration of the canal.


Template:Politics of Panama Main article: Politics of Panama

Panama is a republic with three branches of government: executive and legislative branches elected by direct vote for 5-year terms, and an independently appointed judiciary. The executive branch includes a president and two vice presidents. The legislative branch consists of a 72-member unicameral Legislative Assembly. The judicial branch is organized under a nine-member Supreme Court and includes all tribunals and municipal courts. An autonomous Electoral Tribunal supervises voter registration, the election process, and the activities of political parties. Everyone over the age of 18 is required to vote, although those who fail to do so are not penalized.

General elections were held on May 2, 2004; the presidential contest was won by Mart�Torrijos, son of the former strongman Omar Torrijos. Torrijos assumed the presidency on September 1, 2004. The former president had been Mireya Moscoso.


Missing image
Map of Panama - Click to enlarge - province names are in red, comarca names in green

Main article: Geography of Panama

Panama is located in Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica. Its location on the eastern end of the isthmus forming a landbridge connecting Central and South America is strategic. By 1999, Panama controlled the Panama Canal that links the North Atlantic Ocean via the Caribbean Sea with the North Pacific Ocean.


Main article: Economy of Panama

Because of its key geographic location, Panama's economy is service-based, heavily weighted toward banking, commerce, and tourism. The handover of the canal and military installations by the US has given rise to new construction projects. The Moscoso administration inherited an economy that is much more structurally sound and liberalized than the one inherited by its predecessor.


Main article: Demographics of Panama

The culture, customs, and language of the Panamanians are predominantly Caribbean Spanish. Ethnically, the majority of the population is mestizo or mixed Spanish, Indian, Chinese, and West Indian. Spanish is the official and dominant language; English is a common second language spoken by the West Indians and by many in business and the professions. More than half the population lives in the Panama City–[[Col󮬠Panama|Col󮝝 metropolitan corridor.

The majority of Panamanians are Roman Catholic, accounting for over 80% of the population. Catholicism is also the official religion of Panama. Evangelical Christians are now estimated to be around 10% of the population. Other major religions in Panama are Islam (5%), the Bah᧭ Faith (1%), Judaism (0.4%), and Hinduism (0.3%). The Jewish community, with over 10,000 members, is by far the biggest community in the region (including Central America, Colombia and the Caribbean). Jewish immigration began in the late 19th Century, and at present there are three synagogues in Panama City, as well as two Jewish schools. Within Latin America, Panama has one of the largest Jewish communities in proportion to its population, surpassed by Uruguay and Argentina.

Panama, because of its historical reliance on commerce, is above all a melting pot. This is shown, for instance, by its considerable population of Chinese (mostly Taiwanese) origin, which number around 150,000, or about 5% of the population.

The country is also the smallest in Latin America in terms of population, with Uruguay as the second-smallest (by almost 400,000). However, since Panama has a faster birth rate, it is likely that in the coming years its population will surpass Uruguay's.


Main article: Culture of Panama

See also

External links

Countries in North America
Antigua and Barbuda | Bahamas | Barbados | Belize | Canada | Costa Rica | Cuba | Dominica | Dominican Republic | El Salvador | Grenada | Guatemala | Haiti | Honduras | Jamaica | Mexico | Nicaragua | Panama | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Trinidad and Tobago | United States
Dependencies: Anguilla | Aruba | Bermuda | British Virgin Islands | Cayman Islands | Greenland | Guadeloupe | Martinique | Montserrat | Navassa Island | Netherlands Antilles | Puerto Rico | Saint-Pierre and Miquelon | Turks and Caicos Islands | U.S. Virgin Islands

Countries in South America
Argentina | Bolivia | Brazil | Chile | Colombia | Ecuador | Guyana | Panama | Paraguay | Peru | Suriname | Trinidad and Tobago | Uruguay | Venezuela
Dependencies: Falkland Islands | French Guiana

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