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  4. Panama


Panama's Information

Flag of Panama
Land Area 74,340 km2
Water Area 1,080 km2
Total Area 75,420km2 (#116)
Population 3,705,246 (#130)
Population Density 49.84/km2
Government Type Presidential Republic
GDP (PPP) $93.12 Billion
GDP Per Capita $22,800
Currency Balboa (PAB)
Largest Cities

Panama Description

Like all of Central America, the native Indian population of Panama was all but destroyed by the disease and powerful weapons inflicted on them by the Spanish during their aggressive colonization.

Native peoplesAs the Spanish regional power increased, Panama became the launching point for invasions into South America. Most of the treasure mined (stolen) by the conquistadors in Bolivia and Peru was sent back to Panama for transport to Spain.

Treasures shipped across the Caribbean became a strong magnet (an easy mark) for pirates (and over time) to reduce their increasing losses, the Spanish Crown decided to transport the gold and silver south, around the southern tip of South America, on a long (but safe) journey back to Spain.

With little strategic value remaining for Spain, Panama was ignored. When neighboring Colombia gained its independence from Spain in 1821, Panama became a province of that new country.

With U.S. backing, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903, and promptly signed a treaty with the U.S. allowing for the construction of a canal and U.S. sovereignty over a strip of land on either side, to be called the Panama Canal Zone.

Ignoring the tragic attempt by the French to build the canal in the late 19th century, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers successfully constructed it between 1904 and 1914, a feat that revolutionized ocean-going shipping, even to the present day.

Canal constructionUnderstandable unhappiness by Panama on its major asset about being controlled by a foreign land, an agreement was signed in 1977, calling for the complete transfer of the Canal from the U.S. to Panama by the end of 1999.

In the mid-1980s General Manuel Noriega took control of Panama, and during his messy 5-year dictatorship, democracy disappeared, the economy was severely damaged, drug trafficking from South America increased, and the population lived in fear of further repression.

With U.S. help, Noriega was deposed in 1989. The entire Panama Canal, the area supporting the Canal, and remaining U.S. military bases were turned over to Panama on December 31, 1999.

This page was last updated on April 7, 2017.

About the Author

John Moen is a cartographer who along with his wife are the orignal founders of worldatlas.com. He and his wife, Chris Woolwine-Moen, produced thousands of award-winning maps that are used all over the world and content that aids students, teachers, travelers and parents with their geography and map questions. Today, it's one of the most popular educational sites on the web.

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