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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.



Middle America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica

Geographic coordinates:

9 00 N, 80 00 W

Map references:

Central America and the Caribbean


total: 78,200 sq km
water: 2,210 sq km
land: 75,990 sq km

Area - comparative:

slightly smaller than South Carolina

Land boundaries:

total: 555 km
border countries: Colombia 225 km, Costa Rica 330 km


2,490 km

Maritime claims:

contiguous zone: 24 NM
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM


tropical maritime; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season (May to January), short dry season (January to May)


interior mostly steep, rugged mountains and dissected, upland plains; coastal areas largely plains and rolling hills

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Volcan de Chiriqui 3,475 m

Natural resources:

copper, mahogany forests, shrimp, hydropower

Land use:

arable land: 6.72%
permanent crops: 2.08%
other: 91.2% (1998 est.)

Irrigated land:

320 sq km (1998 est.)

Natural hazards:

occasional severe storms and forest fires in the Darien area

Environment - current issues:

water pollution from agricultural runoff threatens fishery resources; deforestation of tropical rain forest; land degradation and soil erosion threatens siltation of Panama Canal; air pollution in urban areas; mining threatens natural resources

Environment - international agreements:

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation

Geography - note:

strategic location on eastern end of isthmus forming land bridge connecting North and South America; controls Panama Canal that links North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean



2,960,784 (July 2003 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 30.6% (male 461,670; female 443,671)
15-64 years: 63.3% (male 950,089; female 924,038)
65 years and over: 6.1% (male 86,006; female 95,310) (2003 est.)

Median age:

total: 25.6 years
male: 25.4 years
female: 25.9 years (2002)

Population growth rate:

1.36% (2003 est.)

Birth rate:

20.78 births/1,000 population (2003 est.)

Death rate:

6.25 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.)

Net migration rate:

-0.97 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2003 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.9 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2003 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 21.44 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 19.19 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
male: 23.59 deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 72.32 years
male: 69.97 years
female: 74.79 years (2003 est.)

Total fertility rate:

2.53 children born/woman (2003 est.)


noun: Panamanian(s)
adjective: Panamanian

Ethnic groups:

mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, white 10%, Amerindian 6%


Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%


Spanish (official), English 14%
note: many Panamanians bilingual


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 92.6%
male: 93.2%
female: 91.9% (2003 est.)


Country name:

conventional long form: Republic of Panama
conventional short form: Panama
local short form: Panama
local long form: Republica de Panama

Government type:

constitutional democracy



Administrative divisions:

9 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia) and 1 territory* (comarca); Bocas del Toro, Chiriqui, Cocle, Colon, Darien, Herrera, Los Santos, Panama, San Blas*, and Veraguas


3 November 1903 (from Colombia; became independent from Spain 28 November 1821)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 3 November (1903)


11 October 1972; major reforms adopted 1978, 1983 and 1994

Legal system:

based on civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court of Justice; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations


18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Source: CIA World Factbook