Panama's tropical environment supports an abundance of plants. Forests dominate, interrupted in places by grasslands, scrub, and crops. Although nearly 40% of Panama is still wooded, deforestation is a continuing threat to the rain-drenched woodlands. Tree cover has been reduced by more than 50 percent since the 1940s. Subsistence farming, widely practised from the northeastern jungles to the southwestern grasslands, consists largely of corn, bean, and tuber plots. Mangrove swamps occur along parts of both coasts, with banana plantations occupying deltas near Costa Rica. In many places, a multi-canopied rain forest abuts the swamp on one side of the country and extends to the lower reaches of slopes on the other.
In addition to the much-covered business dealings of British prime minister David Cameron and Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, the leaked documents also contain identity information about the shareholders and directors of 214,000 shell companies set up by Mossack Fonseca, as well as some of their financial transactions. It is generally not against the law (in and of itself) to own an offshore shell company, although offshore shell companies may sometimes be used for illegal purposes.
In Panama, nature is all about discovery. Explore the ruins of Spanish forts on the Caribbean coast or boat deep into indigenous territories in a dugout canoe. Wildlife is incidental: a resplendent quetzal on the highland trail, an unruly troupe of screeching howler monkeys outside your cabin or a breaching whale that turns your ferry ride into an adrenaline-filled event. Adventure tourism means zipping through rainforest canopies, swimming alongside sea turtles or trekking to sublime cloud-forest vistas. One small tropical country with two long coasts makes for a pretty big playground.
Asked about the paucity of American individuals in the documents, digital editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung, Stefan Plöchinger, said via Twitter: "Just wait for what is coming next." Plöchinger later clarified that he was just advocating not jumping to conclusions. Copies of at least 200 American passports – indicating that their owners applied for banking services – have been discovered in the Papers, but no US politicians have yet been named in the leak. The names of a few Americans are however mentioned:
The documents were dubbed the Panama Papers because of the country they were leaked from; however, the Panamanian government expressed strong objections to the name over concerns that it would tarnish the government's and country's image worldwide, as did other entities in Panama and elsewhere. This led to an advertising campaign some weeks after the leak, titled "Panama, more than papers". Some media outlets covering the story have used the name "Mossack Fonseca papers".
The Ministry of Economy and Finance of Panama, Dulcidio de la Guardia, formerly an offshore specialist at Mossack Fonseca competitor Morgan & Morgan, said the legal but often "murky" niche of establishing offshore accounts, firms and trusts make up "less than half a percentage point" of Panama's GDP. He appeared to suggest that publication of the papers was an attack on Panama because of the high level of economic growth that the country had shown.
Panama City is located at 30°10′28″N 85°39′52″W (30.174451, -85.664480) within the Florida Panhandle and along the Emerald Coast. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city limits encompass an area of 35.4 square miles (91.8 km2), of which 29.3 square miles (75.8 km2) is land and 6.2 square miles (16.0 km2), or 17.39%, is water.
Three Mossack Fonseca companies started for clients of Helene Mathieu Legal Consultants were later sanctioned by the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Pangates International Corporation was accused in July 2014 of supplying the government of Syria with "a large amount of specialty petroleum products" with "limited civilian application in Syria". The other two, Maxima Middle East Trading and Morgan Additives Manufacturing Co, and their owners Wael Abdulkarim and Ahmad Barqawi, were said to have "engaged in deceptive measures" to supply oil products to Syria.
The Panamanian currency is officially the balboa, fixed at a rate of 1:1 with the United States dollar since Panamanian independence in 1903. In practice, Panama is dollarized: U.S. dollars are legal tender and used for all paper currency, and whilst Panama has its own coinage, U.S. coins are widely used. Because of the tie to US dollars, Panama has traditionally had low inflation. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Panama's inflation in 2006 was 2.0 percent as measured by a weighted Consumer Price Index.
Ethnic groups in Panama include Mestizo people, who have a mix of European and native ancestry. Black Afro-Panamanians account for 15–20 percent of the population. Most Afro-Panamanians live on the Panama-Colón metropolitan area, the Darien Province, La Palma, and Bocas Del Toro. Neighborhoods in Panama City that have large black populations include: Curundu, El Chorrillo, Rio Abajo, San Joaquín, El Marañón, San Miguelito, and Santa Ana. Black Panamanians are descendants of African slaves brought to the Americas in the Atlantic Slave Trade. The second wave of black people brought to Panama came from the Caribbean during the construction of the Panama Canal. Panama also has a considerable Chinese and Indian (India) population brought to work on the canal during its construction. Most Chinese-Panamanians reside in the province of Chiriquí. Europeans and white-Panamanians are a minority in Panama. Panama is also home to a small Arab community that has mosques, practises Islam, as well as a Jewish community and many synagogues.
Mossack Fonseca also ran six businesses for Rami Makhlouf, cousin of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, despite US sanctions against him. Internal Mossack Fonseca documents show that in 2011 Mossack Fonseca rejected a recommendation by their own compliance team to sever ties to Mr. Makhlouf. They agreed to do so only months later. The firm has said it never knowingly allowed anyone connected with rogue regimes to use its companies.
Kojo Annan, son of former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, appears with Laolu Saraki, the son of the late Nigerian senator Abubakar Olusola Saraki, as shareholders in Blue Diamond Holding Management Corp, registered by Mossack Fonseca in the British Virgin Islands in 2002. The two were directors of Sutton Energy Ltd, also registered in the British Virgin Islands in 2002, then transferred to Samoa. In 2015, Annan used another shell company first registered in the British Virgin Islands, then transferred to Samoa, to purchase an apartment in London for $500,000.
The number of tourists from Europe grew by 23.1 percent during the first nine months of 2008. According to the Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP), from January to September, 71,154 tourists from Europe entered Panama, 13,373 more than in same period the previous year. Most of the European tourists were Spaniards (14,820), followed by Italians (13,216), French (10,174) and British (8,833). There were 6997 from Germany, the most populous country in the European Union. Europe has become one of the key markets to promote Panama as a tourist destination.
The dazzling blue coastline and shimmering skyscrapers say Miami, though many joke that you hear more English spoken in Panama. Panama City is culturally diverse and driven, rough-edged yet sophisticated. And there's much that's new or improved. Central America's first subway is operating, the historic Casco district has been beautifully restored and a massive canal expansion completed. Take in the city's funky particulars. Pedal the coastal green space, explore the Casco or attend an avant-garde performance and you will realize this tropical capital isn't only about salsa: that's just the backbeat.
The earliest discovered artifacts of indigenous peoples in Panama include Paleo-Indian projectile points. Later central Panama was home to some of the first pottery-making in the Americas, for example the cultures at Monagrillo, which date back to 2500–1700 BC. These evolved into significant populations best known through their spectacular burials (dating to c. 500–900 AD) at the Monagrillo archaeological site, and their beautiful Gran Coclé style polychrome pottery. The monumental monolithic sculptures at the Barriles (Chiriqui) site are also important traces of these ancient isthmian cultures.
The home of several Native American peoples, such as the Guaymí, Kuna, and Chocó, Panama became the first Spanish colony on the Pacific. Celebrated as “the door to the seas and key to the universe,” it served in the 1530s as the staging point for the Spanish conquest of the Inca empire, and until the 19th century it was a transshipment point for gold and silver destined for Spain. With the independence of Colombia, which once controlled Panama, from Spain, Panama came to serve as another staging point, this time for oceangoing migrants to the gold fields of California.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of the newspapers participating in the project that made the papers public, described the connections of various individuals listed in them to Russian president Vladimir Putin. They quoted Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman and US State Department documents saying that Russia is a "kleptocracy" and a "mafia state" respectively. The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported about $2 billion had moved through a network of companies associated with Russian firms and individuals in "just a few years" and the companies appeared to have been used for "questionable business transactions".
Casco Antiguo displays a mix of architectural styles that reflect the country's cultural diversity: Caribbean, Republican, art deco, French, and colonial architecture mix in a site comprising around 800 buildings. Most of Panama City's main monuments are located in Casco Antiguo, including the Salón Bolivar, the National Theater (founded in 1908), Las Bóvedas, and Plaza de Francia. There are also many Catholic buildings, such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, the La Merced Church, and the St. Philip Neri Church. The distinctive golden altar at St. Joseph Church was one of the few items saved from Panama Viejo during the 1671 pirate siege. It was buried in mud during the siege and then secretly transported to its present location.
Leaked documents suggest that Mossack Fonseca helped tuna export company Borda Azul set up a shell company in the British Virgin Islands in order to avoid Costa Rican taxes. The firm, now out of business, was headed by Hermes Navarro, president of the Costa Rican Football Federation from 1999 to 2006. In the late 1990s the Finance Ministry and Prosecutor's Office investigated Borda Azul and other export companies for allegedly misusing tax credit certificates; in 1997 dozens of companies had been accused of using the certificates for fraud and to launder drug profits.
Panama was under Spanish rule for almost 300 years (1538–1821), and became part of the Viceroyalty of Peru, along with all other Spanish possessions in South America. From the outset, Panamanian identity was based on a sense of "geographic destiny", and Panamanian fortunes fluctuated with the geopolitical importance of the isthmus. The colonial experience spawned Panamanian nationalism and a racially complex and highly stratified society, the source of internal conflicts that ran counter to the unifying force of nationalism.[page needed]
The ICIJ investigation of Mossack Fonseca was reported to the Public Ministry. Samid Dan Sandoval, former candidate for mayor of Santiago de Veraguas (2014), filed the legal action against the journalists and all those who had participated. He said the project name damaged the integrity, dignity and sovereignty of the country and that the consortium would have to assume legal responsibility for all damage caused to the Panamanian nation.
Bidzina Ivanishvili became wealthy in Russia before returning to Georgia and becoming prime minister in 2012; his public official's asset declaration was 72 pages long. However, he does not list Lynden Management, a Mossack Fonseca company which held about 20% of the shares of Raptor Pharmaceuticals (which he did declare), a US-based company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. He refused for nearly four years to provide a copy of his passport and a proof of address to the law firm, which needed it to comply with money-laundering regulations as well as inquiries into the company by the Financial Investigation Agency of the British Virgin Islands.
Since the end of the 20th century, association football has become more popular in Panama. The top tier of domestic Panamanian football, Liga Panameña de Fútbol, was founded in 1988. The national team appeared at the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 2018, appearing in group G, facing Belgium, England and Tunisia. However, the team lost all three games, failing to advance past the group stage. Notable players for the national team include Luis Ernesto Tapia, Rommel Fernández, the Dely Valdés Brothers: Armando, Julio and Jorge; and more recent players as Jaime Penedo, Felipe Baloy, Luis Tejada, Blas Pérez, Román Torres and Harold Cummings.