Background: With US help, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and immediately entered into an agreement with the US for the construction of a canal and for 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 Engineers between 1904 and 1914. On September 7, 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the canal to Panama in 1999. Certain sections of the canal zone and partial responsibility for the canal were transferred to Panama over the following years. With US help, dictator Manuel NORIEGA was removed in 1989. The entire Panama Canal, the zone that ensures its operation, and US military bases were transferred to Panama on December 31, 1999.
Location: Central America, Caribbean coast and Pacific coast between Colombia and Costa Rica. See franciscogardening.com to know more about Panama Geography.
Geographic coordinates: 9° 00′ N. latitude, 80° 00′ W e.
Reference map: Central America and the Caribbean.
Area: total: 78,200 square kilometers; land surface area: 75,990 km2; water surface area: 2,210 km2
Comparative area: slightly smaller than the state of South Carolina.
Land borders: total: 555 km; with neighboring states: with Colombia 225 km, with Costa Rica 330 km.
Coastline: 2,490 km.
Maritime claims: neutral waters: 24 nautical miles; exclusive economic zone: 200 nautical miles; territorial waters: 12 nautical miles.
Climate: tropical marine; hot, humid, cloudy; long rainy season (May to January), short dry season (January to May).
Relief: steep, steep mountains and dissected plains in the interior of the country; coastal areas are mostly lowlands and hills.
Maximum and minimum heights: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m; highest point: Chiriki volcano 3,475 m.
Natural resources: copper, redwood, shrimp, hydropower.
Land use: arable land: 7%; cultivated land: 2%; pastures: 20%; forests and plantations: 44%; others: 27% (1993 est.).
Irrigated land: 320 km2 (1993 est.).
Natural hazards: no data available.
Current environmental issues: water pollution from agricultural runoff threatens fish populations; deforestation in tropical forests; land degradation and soil erosion threaten to pollute the Panama Canal.
International environmental agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate change, Kyoto protocol, Desertification, Endangered species, Hazardous wastes, Law of the sea, Marine pollution, Nuclear test ban, Ozone layer protection, Ship pollution, Tropical timber 1983, Tropical timber 1994, Wetlands, Whaling; signed but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation.
Note to the Geography section: strategic position on the eastern end of the isthmus, which forms a natural bridge connecting North and South America; control of the Panama Canal, which links the North Atlantic Ocean through the Caribbean Sea to the North Pacific Ocean.
Population: 2,845,647 (July 2001 est.).
Age structure: under 14: 30.13% (male 436,661; female 420,625); 15 to 64 years old: 63.86% (male 920,787; female 896,520); over 65: 6.01% (male 81,682; female 89,372) (2001 est.).
Population growth: 1.3% (2001 est.).
Birth rate: 19.06 newborns / 1000 people. (2001 est.).
Mortality: 4.95 deaths / 1000 people. (2001 est.).
Migration: -1.1 people /1000 people (2001 est.).
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male/female; under 15: 1.04 male/female; from 15 to 64 years old: 1.03 male/female; over 65: 0.91 male/female; for the general population: 1.02 male/female (2001 est.);
Child mortality: 20.18 deaths/1000 births (2001 est.).
Life expectancy: for the general population: 75.68 years; men: 72.94 years; women: 78.53 years (2001 est.).
General birth rate: 2.27 children/wives. (2001 est.).
Proportion of adults infected with HIV: 1.54% (1999 est.).
Number of people infected with HIV: 24,000 (1999 est.).
AIDS deaths: 1,200 (1999 est.).
Nationality: noun: Panamanian; adjective: Panamanian.
Ethnic groups: mestizos (descendants of Indians and whites) 70%, Indians and mixed ancestry (West Indians) 14%, whites 10%, Indians 6%,
believers: Catholics 85%, Protestants 15%.
Languages): Spanish (official), English 14%; note: many Panamanians are bilingual.
Literacy: definition: persons aged 15 and over who can read and write; for the general population: 90.8%; men: 91.4%; women: 90.2% (1995 est.).
Common long form: Republic of Panama;
conventional short form: Panama; local long form: Republica de Panama; local short form: Panama
State structure: constitutional democracy.
Administrative divisions: 9 provinces and 1 territory* (comarca): Bocas del Toro, Be-raguas, Daria, Cocle, Colon, Los Santos, Panama, San Blas*, Chiriqui, Herrera.
Independence: since November 3, 1903 (in 1903 withdrew from Colombia; became independent from Spain on November 28, 1821).
National holiday: Independence Day, November 3 (1903).
Constitution: adopted October 11, 1972; significant changes were made in 1978, 1983 and 1994.
Legal system: based on the civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court is possible; subject to the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.
Suffrage: from 18 years old; universal and mandatory.
chief of state: President Mireya Elisa MOSCOSO Rodriguez (since 1 September 1999); First Vice President Arturo Ulises VALLARINO (since September 1, 1999); Second Vice President (Dominador) “Kaiser” Baldonero BAZAN Jimenez (“Kaiser” Baldonero BAZAN Jimenez) (since September 1, 1999); note – the president is both head of state and head of government;
head of government: President Mireya Elisa MOSCOSO Rodriguez (since 1 September 1999); First Vice President Arturo Ulises VALLARINO (since September 1, 1999); second vice-president (Dominador) “Kaiser” Baldonero BAZAN Jimenez (since September 1, 1999); note – the president is both head of state and head of government;
government: the cabinet of ministers is appointed by the president; elections: the president and vice presidents are elected from one list by popular vote for five years; elections last held 2 May 1999 (next to be held in May 2004); election results: Mireia Episa MOSCOSO Rodriguez elected president; percentage of votes received – Mireya Elisa MOSCOSO Rodriguez (RA) 44%, Martin TORRIJOS (Martin TORRI-JOS) (PRD) 37%; note the government coalition includes RA, MOLIRENA, DC, MORENA, PLN, PS.
Legislature: unicameral Legislative Assembly (71 seats; members are elected by popular vote for five years); elections: elections last held 2 May 1999 (next to be held in May 2004); election results: distribution of votes among parties: no data; distribution of seats among parties: PRD 34, RA 18, PS 4, PDC 4, MOLIRENA 3, PLN 3, DC 2, PRC 1, MORENA 1; Note: Law in remote rural areas are elected by a relative majority of votes, while in more populated urban areas, legislators are elected according to a proportional system. Judiciary^: Supreme Court, nine judges appointed for 10 years; five high courts; three courts of appeal.
Political parties and leaders: Arnulfist Party (RA) (Mireya Elisa MOSCOSO Rodriguez); Christian Democratic Party (PDC) (Ruben AROSEMENA); Civil Renewal Party (PRC) (Serguei DE LA ROSA); Democratic Change (DC) (Ricardo MARTINELLI); Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) (Martin TORRIJOS); National Liberal Party (PLN) (Raul ARANGO); Movement for National Renewal (MORENA) (Pedro VALLARINO); Nationalist republican-liberal movement (MOLIRENA) (Ramon MORALES [Ramon MORALES]); Solidarity Party (PS) (Samuel LEWIS Galindo).
Political influence groups and their leaders: Chamber of Commerce; National Civil War Campaign; National Council of Organized Workers (CONATO); National Council for Private Enterprise (CONEP); Panama Business Association (APEDE); Panama Society of Industrialists (SIP); Confederation of Workers of the Republic of Panama (CTRP).
Participation in international organizations: ССС, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA (observer), NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO.
Diplomatic representation in the USA: Head of Mission: Ambassador Alfredo BOYD; office: 2862 McGill Terrace NW, Washington, DC 20008; phone:  (202) 483-1407; consulates general: Atlanta, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tampa.
US Mission: Head of Mission: Ambassador Simon FERRO; embassy: Avenida Balboa and Calle 38, Apartado 6959, Panama City 5; postal address: American Embassy Panama, Unit 0945, APO AA 34002; phone:  207-7000; fax:  227-1964.
Flag description: divided into 4 equal parts; the upper left quarter is white with a blue five-pointed star in the center; upper right quarter red; lower left quarter blue; the lower right quarter is white with a red five-pointed star in the center.