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.
impenetrable jungle forms the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia. It
creates a break in the Pan-American Highway, which otherwise forms a
complete road from Alaska to Chile.
economy is service-based, heavily weighted toward banking, commerce, and
tourism, because of its key geographic location. The handover of the
canal and military installations by the US has given rise to new
construction projects. The Martín Torrijos administration has undertaken
controversial structural reforms, such as a fiscal reform and a very
difficult Social Security Reform. Furthermore, it will soon convene a
Referendum for the building of a third set of locks for the Panama
of Panama takes place in a framework of a presidential representative
democratic republic, whereby the President of Panama is both head of
state and head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system.
Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is
vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary
is independent of the executive and the legislature.
political divisions are 9 provinces, 75 districts or municipalities, 5
indigenous comarcas, and 620 "corregimientos." Panama is divided into 9
provinces (provincias) and 3 provincial-level indigenous territories (comarcas
indígenas). There are also 2 sub-provincial comarcas, Kuna de Madugandí
and Kuna de Wargandí, which are part of Panamá and Darién provinces,
Panama's domestic politics and international diplomacy in the 20th
century was tied to the Panama Canal and the foreign policy of the
United States. At the turn of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt
pursued United States diplomatic efforts to facilitate a deal with
Colombia that would allow it to take over French canal operations
started by Ferdinand de Lesseps. In November 1903, a small number of
wealthy Panamanian landowners led by a covert Separatist Junta presided
by Dr. Manuel Amador Guerrero, were encouraged to secede from Colombia
with support from the United States.
November 3, 1903, Panama declared its independence from Colombia. The
President of the Municipal Council, Demetrio H. Brid, highest authority
at the time, became its de facto President, appointing on November 4 a
Provisional Government to run the affairs of the new republic. The
United States was the first country to recognize the new Republic of
Panama and sent troops to protect the nation. The 1904 Constituent
Assembly elected Dr. Manuel Amador Guerrero, a prominent member of the
Conservative political party, as the first constitutional President of
the Republic of Panama.
December 1903 representatives of the republic signed the Hay-Bunau
Varilla Treaty which granted rights to the United States to build and
administer indefinitely the Panama Canal, which was opened in 1914. This
treaty became a contentious diplomatic issue between the two countries,
reaching a boiling point on January 9, 1964: Martyr's Day. These issues
were resolved with the signing of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties in 1977.
original intent of the founding fathers was to bring harmony between the
two major political parties (Conservatives and Liberals). The Panamanian
government went through periods of political instability and corruption,
however, and at various times in its history, the mandate of an elected
president terminated prematurely. In 1968, a Coup toppled the government
of the recently elected Arnulfo Arias Madrid. Gen. Omar Torrijos
eventually became the leading power in the governing military junta, and
later became an autocratic strong man until his death in an apparent
airplane accident in 1981. After Torrijos's death, power was eventually
concentrated in the hands of Gen. Manuel Noriega, a former head of
Panama's secret police. Noriega was implicated in drug trafficking by
the United States, resulting in difficult relations by the end of the
Gen. Manuel Noriega, on December 20, 1989, the United States invaded
Panama in a large military operation involving 25,000 United States
troops (see US invasion of Panama). Allegedly, the death of an unarmed
U.S. soldier in plain clothes in Panama at a Panamanian Defence Forces
roadblock was one of the precipitating causes for the invasion along
with drug trafficking charges and Noriega's refusal to hand over power
after being defeated in elections. 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
U.S. military base in the former Panama Canal Zone, Guillermo Endara,
the winning candidate in the May 1989 elections, 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
represented by Monsignor Jose S. Laboa. To induce Noriega's surrender,
US forces played loud music outside the embassy. After a few days,
Noriega surrendered to the American military, and was taken to Florida
to be formally arrested and charged U.S. federal authorities. He will be
eligible for parole in 2007.
Torrijos-Carter Treaties, the United States returned all canal-related
lands to Panama on December 31, 1999, but reserves the right to military
intervention in the interest of its national security. Panama also
gained control of canal-related buildings and infrastructure as well as
full administration of the canal.
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 African descent. 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–Colón
majority of Panamanians are Roman Catholic, accounting for almost 80% of
the population. Although the Constitution recognises Catholicism as the
religion of the majority, Panama has no official religion. Evangelical
Christians are now estimated to be around 10% of the population. Other
Protestant churches make up about 4% of the population. Other major
religions in Panama are Islam (4.4%), the Bahá'í Faith (1.2%), Buddhism
(at least 1%), Judaism (0.4%), and Hinduism (0.3%). The Jewish community
in Panama, with over 10,000 members, is by far the biggest 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 three Jewish schools. Within
Latin America, Panama has one of the largest Jewish communities in
proportion to its population, surpassed by Uruguay and Argentina.
Panama's communities of Muslims, East Asians, and South Asians, are also
among the largest.
City hosts one of only seven Bahá'í Houses of Worship in the world.
Completed in 1972, it is perched on a high cliff overlooking the canal,
and is constructed of local stone laid in a pattern reminiscent of
Native American fabric designs.
because of its historical reliance on commerce, is above all a melting
pot. This is shown, for instance, by its considerable population of
Chinese origin, who number around 150,000, or about 5% of the
population. (See main article at Chinatowns in Latin America—Panama).
Many Chinese immigrated to Panama to help build the Panama Railroad. A
term for "corner store" in Panamanian Spanish is el chino, reflecting
the fact that many corner stores are owned and run by Chinese
immigrants. (Other countries have similar social patterns, for instance,
the "Arab" corner store of France.)
seven indigenous peoples in Panama:
country is also the smallest in Spanish-speaking Latin America in terms
of population, with Uruguay as the second smallest (by almost 400,000).
However, since Panama has a higher birth rate, it is likely that in the
coming years its population will surpass Uruguay's.
Being a small group of
islands, transportation is limited. There are 113km of roads. The main
airport is located on Beef Island, near Tortola. Virgin Gorda and
Anegada have their own smaller airports. The main harbour is in Road
[Source: Wikipedia - Panama]