From clear turquoise seas to the coffee farms and cloud forests of Chiriquí, Panama can be as chilled out or as thrilling as you wish.
A virtual guide to Panama, a country in Central America on the Isthmus of Panama, the landbridge between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean that connects North and South America. Panama is bordered by Colombia and Costa Rica.
The country is best known for the Panama Canal, a man-made waterway, opened in 1914. The canal cuts through the country, linking the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic) with the Pacific Ocean. The canal is owned and administered by the Republic of Panama, it is one of the two most-strategic artificial waterways in the world (the other is the Suez Canal in Egypt). Until 1999 the Panama Canal was controlled by the United States.
Panama occupies an area of 74,177 km², making it slightly larger than the Republic of Ireland or slightly smaller than the U.S. state of South Carolina.
Panama’s landscape is mostly montainous, covered by rainforest and jungle. The highest point in Panama is Volcán Barú, an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3,475 m (11,460 feet) is located in west, close to the border with Costa Rica.
With US backing, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and promptly signed a treaty with the US allowing for the construction of a canal and US sovereignty over a strip of land on either side of the structure (the Panama Canal Zone). The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914.
On 7 September 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the US to Panama by the end of 1999. Certain portions of the Zone and increasing responsibility over the Canal were turned over in the intervening years. With US help, Dictator Manuel NORIEGA was deposed in 1989. The entire Panama Canal, the area supporting the Canal, and remaining US military bases were turned over to Panama by or on 31 December 1999.
Panama is a constitutional democracy and a presidential representative republic with a multi-party system. Head of state and head of government is the president.
Executive power is exercised by the government. The National Assembly is main legislative body of Panama. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature, the magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice are appointed by the president.
To understand the politics of Panama one may consider the fact that elite families of European descent control most of Panama’s wealth and power, while about 33% of the population live below the poverty line.