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 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.
The construction of the Panama Canal was of great benefit to the infrastructure and economy. Of particular note are the improvements in health and sanitation brought about by the American presence in the Canal Zone. Dr. William Gorgas, the chief sanitary officer for the canal construction, had a particularly large impact. He hypothesized that diseases were spread by the abundance of mosquitos native to the area, and ordered the fumigation of homes and the cleansing of water. This led to yellow fever being eradicated by November 1905, as well malaria rates falling dramatically. However, most of the laborers for the construction of the canal were brought in from the Caribbean, which created unprecedented racial and social tensions in the city.
The city proper has approximately 880,691 inhabitants in 23 boroughs. The inhabitants of Panama City are commonly referred to as capitalinos and include large numbers of Afro-Panamanians, mestizos, and mulattos, with notable white and Asian minorities. There is a great deal of cultural diversity within the city, which manifests itself in the wide variety of languages commonly spoken, such as German, Portuguese, French, Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew and English, in addition to Spanish.
There’s a palpable excitement as the country is coming into its own. You can see it in the exciting food and culture scenes and the flashy, innovative architecture and the new industries that are adding to local offerings. New laws to encourage filmmaking paved the way for Panama to get its very own International Film Festival. The annual jazz festival is a renowned event. Major international summits are held at Panama’s large, modern convention centers.
Newspaper Inkyfada had access to the documents and reported a dozen politicians, former government officials and lawyers had been implicated, as well as a leading media figure. Monday April 4, 2016 it reported that the former secretary-general of the Nidaa Tounes political party, Mohsen Marzouk, who was also the coordinator of the new political party, Machrouu Tounes, was on the point of creating his own account in December 2014, in the first presidential elections. Marzouk had written Mossack Fonseca about a company in the Virgin Islands, emphasizing a desire to hold funds and conduct business overseas. Marzouk denies this and has filed a defamation complaint.
Panama's roads, traffic and transportation systems are generally safe, though night driving is difficult and in many cases, restricted by local authorities. This usually occurs in informal settlements. Traffic in Panama moves on the right, and Panamanian law requires that drivers and passengers wear seat belts. Highways are generally well-developed for a Latin American country.
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 anti-corruption taskforce of the Olusegun Obasanjo government, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, questioned at the time whether the Yar'Adua administration has refrained or was loath to pursue members of the Nigerian elite suspected of corruption, including leading financiers of the ruling party, or those like Ibori who supported had their election.
Before Europeans arrived Panama was widely settled by Chibchan, Chocoan, and Cueva peoples. The largest group were the Cueva (whose specific language affiliation is poorly documented). The size of the indigenous population of the isthmus at the time of European colonization is uncertain. Estimates range as high as two million people, but more recent studies place that number closer to 200,000. Archaeological finds and testimonials by early European explorers describe diverse native isthmian groups exhibiting cultural variety and suggesting people developed[clarification needed] by regular regional routes of commerce.
Law firms play a central role in offshore financial operations. Mossack Fonseca is one of the biggest in its field and the biggest financial institutions refer customers to it. Its services to clients include incorporating and operating shell companies in friendly jurisdictions on their behalf. They can include creating "complex shell company structures" that, while legal, also allow the firm's clients "to operate behind an often impenetrable wall of secrecy". The leaked papers detail some of their intricate, multilevel, and multinational corporate structures. Mossack Fonseca has acted with global consultancy partners like Emirates Asset Management Ltd, Ryan Mohanlal Ltd, Sun Hedge Invest and Blue Capital Ltd on behalf of more than 300,000 companies, most of them registered in the British Overseas Territories.
President Barack Obama addressed the overseas shell companies listed by the leak in a press conference: "It's not that they're breaking the laws," he said, "it's that the laws are so poorly designed that they allow people, if they've got enough lawyers and enough accountants, to wiggle out of responsibilities that ordinary citizens are having to abide by." Although no leader in the US was mentioned in the Panama Papers, Obama said that "Frankly, folks in America are taking advantage of the same stuff".