Which Countries Border Panama?

Border crossing from Sixola, Costa Rico to Panama.  Editorial credit: Rainer Lesniewski / Shutterstock.com
Border crossing from Sixola, Costa Rico to Panama. Editorial credit: Rainer Lesniewski / Shutterstock.com

The Republic of Panama is a Central American nation that spans an area of 29,119 square miles. Human societies have been living within Panama's borders since 2500 BCE. Before the arrival of the Europeans in the region, some communities exerted their influence within Panama such as the Chibchan, the Cueva, and the Chocoan. The most dominant were the Cueva, and they played a huge role in shaping Panama's borders. During the colonial period, Panama was under the control of the Spanish, and they also had an enormous impact on the shape of Panama's borders. In the present-day, the land borders of Panama cover a distance of roughly 427 miles. Panama shares its land boundaries with two nations of Costa Rica and Colombia.

Panama-Colombia Border

Panama and Colombia are separated by a border of roughly 139 miles long that is situated on the southeastern edge of Panama. There are several towns located on the Panama side of the border with some of the most prominent being Santa Cruz de Cana, Boca de Cupe, and Yavize. The towns that are located on the Colombian side of the border include Jurado, Yarumal, and Monteria. The border between the two nations is one of the most critical international boundaries as it marks the separation between Central America and South America.

History of the Panama-Colombia Border

The border between Panama and Colombia dates back to the 14th century when both countries were under the control of the Spanish government. The Spanish monarch issued a royal decree that was meant to separate the governorship of Nueva Andalucía from the governorship of Castilla de Oro. The royal decree relied on the River Atrato as the main separating point of the two governorships. After both nations gained their independence, the boundary went through a significant change. Representatives from the Colombian government and the Panama government met in Bogota and signed the Victoria-Velez Treaty which detailed the position of the modern day boundary. In deciding the position of the border, the representatives relied on Colombian law passed in 1855. In the signing of the treaty, the government of Panama was represented by Nicolas Victoria while Jorge Velez represented the Colombian government.

The Darien Gap

The Darien Gap is one of the best-known features situated along the border between Panama and Colombia. In Panama, the gap is part of the Darien province while in Colombia it is part of the Choco Department. One of the significant features of the Darien Gap is the Darien National Park that extends over close to 90% of the border between the two countries. The Darien Gap is considerably underdeveloped due to the presence of swamplands and forests. The poorly developed infrastructural system makes it difficult for people to cross the gap. Most of the vehicles that cross the gap are considered off-road vehicles. Due to the significance of the Darien National Park, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.

Issues Along the Border

One of the major issues along the border occurred in 2016 after the government of Panama decided to close part of the border due to an overflow of illegal migrants particularly from Africa and Cuba. After the governments of Nicaragua and Costa Rica closed their border, the Panama government decided to prevent Cuban migrants from crossing through their borders. The most immediate effect of the closure was the significant number of migrants being stuck in the city of Turbo. Several of the migrants stuck in the area demanded that the Colombian government take them to Mexico.

Panama-Costa Rica Border

Panama and Costa Rica are separated by a border of roughly 211 miles long that is situated on the western edge of Panama. There are several towns located on the Panama side of the border with some of the most well-known being Punta Burica, Volcan, and La Concepcion. The border between Panama and Costa Rica was determined in 1941 after representatives from both nations signed the Echandi-Fernandez Treaty of 1941. The government of Costa Rica was represented by Alberto Echandi Montero who at the time was the foreign minister. The Panama government, on the other hand, was represented by Ambassador Ezequiel Fernández Jaén. The treaty was signed to resolve a border dispute that had affected the relationship between the two nations.

Border Dispute with Costa Rica

Panama and Costa Rica were involved in a border dispute during the 19th century. At the time, Panama was part of the Republic of New Grenada, and the Republic claimed that its territory included the entirety of the Mosquito Coast. Costa Rica also claimed a section of the region as part of its territory. After Panama separated from the republic, the leaders tried to negotiate the position of the border with the Costa Rican government. Initially, the governments of the two nations signed the Pacheco-de La Guardia Treaty, however, the government of Costa Rica did not ratify the deal primarily due to the influence exerted by American banana companies.

American Intervention in the Border Dispute

In 1910, representatives from both governments met in Washington and signed the Anderson-Porras Convention. After the convention was signed, the issue was put before Edward Douglas White, who at the time was the president of the Supreme Court of the United States. Douglas White issued a proclamation known as the Judgment White which the Panama government rejected. Attempts by the Costa Rican government to implement the ruling angered the Panama government and led to the Coto War. Another treaty that attempted to resolve the dispute was the Castro-Guizado Protocol of 1928 which was finally rejected by the government of Costa Rica. In 1938, another treaty was proposed, the Zúñiga-de la Espriella Treaty, which faced significant opposition from the Costa Rican people. Finally, in 1941, the Echandi-Fernandez Treaty was signed resolving the border dispute.

Border Security in Panama

The government of Panama has invested vast sums of money in keeping its borders safe. The Panamanian border patrol is one of the agencies that benefited greatly from the increased financing. Panama also cooperates with its neighbors to keep its borders secure.


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