Revenue from canal tolls continues to represent a significant portion of Panama's GDP, although commerce, banking, and tourism are major and growing sectors. It is regarded as a high-income country.[10] In 2015 Panama ranked 60th in the world in terms of the Human Development Index.[11] In 2018, Panama was ranked seventh-most competitive economy in Latin America, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index.[12] Covering around 40 percent of its land area, Panama's jungles are home to an abundance of tropical plants and animals – some of them found nowhere else on earth.[13] Panama is a founding member of the United Nations and other international organizations such as OAS, LAIA, G77, WHO and NAM.
According to Forbes, "Hinojosa and other prominent Mexicans, mostly businessmen with close ties to the government, including at least one member of the Forbes billionaires list, were the subject of extensive articles published online by ICIJ investigation partners Proceso and Aristegui Noticias Sunday."[410] Proceso also said that the Mexicans mentioned in the leaked documents included individuals linked to drug cartels.[408]
Rodrigo de Bastidas sailed westward from Venezuela in 1501 in search of gold, and became the first European to explore the isthmus of Panama. A year later, Christopher Columbus visited the isthmus, and established a short-lived settlement in the Darien. Vasco Núñez de Balboa's tortuous trek from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1513 demonstrated that the isthmus was indeed the path between the seas, and Panama quickly became the crossroads and marketplace of Spain's empire in the New World. Gold and silver were brought by ship from South America, hauled across the isthmus, and loaded aboard ships for Spain. The route became known as the Camino Real, or Royal Road, although it was more commonly known as Camino de Cruces (Road of Crosses) because of the number of gravesites along the way.
The end of the encomienda system in Azuero, however, sparked the conquest of Veraguas in that same year. Under the leadership of Francisco Vázquez, the region of Veraguas passed into Castilian rule in 1558. In the newly conquered region, the old system of encomienda was imposed. On the other hand, the Panamanian movement for independence can be indirectly attributed to the abolition of the encomienda system in the Azuero Peninsula, set forth by the Spanish Crown, in 1558 because of repeated protests by locals against the mistreatment of the native population. In its stead, a system of medium and smaller-sized landownership was promoted, thus taking away the power from the large landowners and into the hands of medium and small-sized proprietors.

The Río Chepo, another source of hydroelectric power, is one of the more than 300 rivers emptying into the Pacific. These Pacific-oriented rivers are longer and slower-running than those on the Caribbean side. Their basins are also more extensive. One of the longest is the Río Tuira, which flows into the Golfo de San Miguel and is the nation's only river that is navigable by larger vessels.


The Procuraduría de la Nación announced that it would investigate Mossack Fonseca and the Panama papers.[146] On April 12, the newly formed Second Specialized Prosecutor against Organized Crime raided Mossack Fonseca and searched their Bella Vista office as part of the investigation initiated by the Panama Papers. The Attorney General's office issued a press release following the raid, which lasted 27 hours,[147] stating that the purpose was "to obtain documents relevant to the information published in news articles that establishes the possible use of the law firm in illegal activities".[148] The search ended without measures against the law firm, confirmed prosecutor Javier Caraballo of the Second Prosecutor Against Organized Crime.[149]
Tourism is one of the most important economic activities in terms of revenue generation. This sector of the economy has seen a great deal of growth since the transfer of the Panama Canal Zone at the end of the twentieth century. The number of hotel rooms increased by more than ten-fold, from 1,400 in 1997 to more than 15,000 in 2013, while the number of annual visitors increased from 457,000 in 1999 to 1.4 million in 2011.[18] The city's hotel occupancy rate has always been relatively high, reaching the second highest for any city outside the United States in 2008, after Perth, Australia, and followed by Dubai.[19] However, hotel occupancy rates have dropped since 2009, probably due to the opening of many new luxury hotels.[20] Several international hotel chains, such as Le Méridien, Radisson, and RIU, have opened or plan to open new hotels in the city,[21] along with those previously operating under Marriott, Sheraton, InterContinental, and other foreign and local brands. The Trump Organization built the Trump Ocean Club, its first investment in Latin America,[22] in 2006 and it is the tallest building in the city. In 2018 it was renamed The Bahia Grand Panama following falling occupancy rates associated with the declining brand value of the Trump name.[23] Hilton Worldwide opened a Hilton Garden Inn in El Cangrejo, and in 2013, The Panamera, the second Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Latin America.[24]
On April 15, 2016, José Manuel Soria was forced to leave his post as acting Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism when the Panama Papers revealed that he and his family had maintained several offshore societies on tax havens during the previous decades.[253] Soria initially denied this, but reports kept leaking that contradicted him. On April 14, a company came to light that he had owned on Jersey until 2002, while mayor of Las Palmas. Soria was put in a critical political position as a result of his confusing and changing explanations on the issue, and resigned the next day.[254][255]
With a plethora of deserted islands, chilled Caribbean vibes on one side and monster Pacific swells on the other, Panama sits poised to deliver the best of beach life. And a whole other world begins at the water's edge. Seize it by scuba diving with whale sharks in the Pacific, snorkeling the rainbow reefs of Bocas del Toro or setting sail in the indigenous territory of Guna Yala, where virgin isles sport nary a footprint. Meanwhile surfers will be psyched to have world-class breaks all to themselves. Hello, paradise.
Long jumper Irving Saladino became the first Panamanian Olympic gold medalist in 2008. In 2012 eight different athletes represented Panama in the London 2012 Olympics: Irving Saladino in the long jump, Alonso Edward and Andrea Ferris in track and field, Diego Castillo in swimming, and the youngest on the team, Carolena Carstens who was 16 competing in taekwondo. She was the first representative to compete for Panama in that sport.
Indications in the Maltese press of Mizzi's links to an offshore trust[211] did not prevent Mizzi from being elected deputy leader for party affairs of the ruling Labour Party on February 25, 2016, following a change in the party statutes to enable a sitting MP to be appointed. Mizzi stepped down as deputy leader of the Labour Party on April 28, 2016.[212][213][214][215][216][217]
Christianity is the main religion in Panama. An official survey carried out by the government estimated in 2015 that 63.2% of the population, or 2,549,150 people, identifies itself as Roman Catholic, and 25.0 percent as evangelical Protestant, or 1,009,740.[77] The Jehovah's Witnesses were the third largest congregation comprising the 1.4% of the population, followed by the Adventist Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with the 0.6%. There is a very large Buddhist (0.4% or 18,560) and Jewish community (0.1% or 5,240) in the country.
He said the firm was the victim of a hack and that he had no responsibility for what clients did with the offshore companies that they purchased from Mossack Fonseca, which were legal under Panamanian law.[128] Later that day, the Independent Movement (MOVIN)[note 1] called for calm, and expressed hope that the Panamanian justice system would not allow the culprits to go with impunity.[128]
Panama is a four-hour flight from Houston, eleven-and-a-half-hour flight from Paris, and a five-hour flight from Toronto making Panama easily accessible. Copa, Panama’s own airline flies to many of Caribbean destinations as well as flights to the United States. As Panama becomes more and more popular with travelers, Tocumen is adding new terminals and gates to allow airlines to establish new routes into the country.
Schembri, a businessman who managed the electoral campaign of the Labour Party in the 2013 Maltese general elections, and serves as chief of staff to Muscat, was reported to hold an offshore company based in the British Virgin Islands,[218] and owns an anonymous shell company in Panama, called Tillgate Inc, held by a trust established for him in New Zealand. Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri acquired their shell companies in Panama, Hearnville Inc and Tillgate Inc respectively, via the Mossack Fonseca representatives in Malta, who also tried to open bank accounts linked to the two shell companies of the two politically exposed persons in various jurisdictions.[216][219][220] The owner of a third anonymous shell company in Panama, Egrant Inc, whose existence was revealed in the same document referring to the other two companies, remains unknown, although the strict secrecy observed in its acquisition, including the avoidance of e-mail communications and the utilization of communications via Skype, have fuelled strong suspicions that a third top Maltese politically exposed person is involved.[221][222]
Areas of alluvial soils (which develop from clay, silt, sand, and gravel deposited by streams) are especially fertile but are limited to the lower parts of river valleys. The commercial banana plantations around Puerto Armuelles and in western Bocas del Toro province are mainly on alluvial soils. Some of the soils along the inland edges of coastal mangrove swamps have also proved productive. In some areas, exceptionally fertile soils have developed from volcanic ash.

Lucien Ebata, a Kinshasa businessman, runs Orion Group SA, registered in the Seychelles in 2009 by Mossack Fonseca through the Luxembourg-based Figed, according to the Panama Papers.[444] Ebata, who receives a salary of a million dollars, does a business volume of around a billion, and counts both Shell and the Société nationale des pétroles du Congo (SNPC) among his customers.[444]

"The most obvious use of offshore financial centers is to avoid taxes", The Economist added.[32] Oxfam blamed tax havens in its 2016 annual report on income inequality for much of the widening gap between rich and poor. "Tax havens are at the core of a global system that allows large corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, "depriving governments, rich and poor, of the resources they need to provide vital public services and tackle rising inequality."[34]
Emrith, described as a low-level UNC party official, had a second Mossack Fonseca company, Pendrey Associates. Speaking in Parliament, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said the leaked documents tied this offshore company to key players in the Petrobras scandal in Brazil, including the convicted Joao Procopio [pt], and Jose Luiz Pires of Queluz, who had dealings with Swiss PKB Privatbank [de] AG. Pires is under investigation, he said.[411]
On April 8, President Varela denounced France's proposal to return Panama to a list of countries that did not cooperate with information exchange.[133] Minister of the Presidency Alvaro Alemán categorically denied that Panama is a tax haven, and said the country would not be a scapegoat.[134] Alemán said that talks with the French ambassador to Panama had begun.[134]
Private Eye revealed that Edward Troup, appointed executive chair of HMRC in April 2016, was a former partner with Simmons & Simmons, the London-based legal firm whose clients included the Panama-registered fund created by David Cameron's father, Blairmore Holdings.[318][319] Papers obtained by the Süddeutsche Zeitung and ICIJ reveal Simmons & Simmons' close relationship with running offshore companies and major overseas property owners, including an investment company run on behalf of Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani, while Troup was its senior tax partner.[320]

Showbiz personality Carmen Lomana said that after the death of her husband, owner of the offshore company, she took care of it but without knowing anything at all about the business or about tax. Bertín Osborne, host and Spanish singer, and the famous actor Imanol Arias, protagonist of one of the longest and most important series of the Spanish television, Cuéntame cómo pasó, were named. Osborne said his account was legal and that he used it as recommended, to save money. He is also involved in a scandal over fraud to the Treasury, with actress and fellow protagonist on the series, Ana Duato. Juan Luis Cebrián, journalist, co-founder of El País, and CEO of Prisa, a Spanish media conglomerate, owns 2% of Star Petroleum, a related oil corporation with tax havens. After being named, he decided to take legal action against La Sexta, who revealed his involvement in this scandal.[271][272][273][274][275][276]
The 2012 investigation's reporters, established that Globex was owned through shell companies in Panama, and that these shell companies belonged to the president's daughters and a Swiss businessman whose name appears in other shell companies such as those that manage Azerphone, the family telecommunications monopoly. Villagers told reporters they hoped to work at the mine, which paid $12 a day, and asked them to intervene with the president about the problems the mine was causing with the water supply. They became angry and did not believe the reporters when they said the president's family had a stake in the mine.[327]
In 2008–2009, the Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR) and its owner Beny Steinmetz paid just $165 million for the mining rights to the northern portion of Simandou mine, located in the Nzérékoré region of Guinea's interior. Soon after, he sold 51 percent of the rights to Vale for $2.5 billion. Rio Tinto, which had previously held the concession, had invested $450 million into infrastructure at the site.[458] Global Witness says BSGR in fact paid nothing for the rights, and the $165 million represents BSGR's self-reported investment in improvements at the site. It adds that either way BSGR's profit exceeded the national budget of Guinea.[459]
In November 1903 Panama proclaimed its independence[25] and concluded the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty with the United States. The treaty granted rights to the United States "as if it were sovereign" in a zone roughly 16 km (10 mi) wide and 80 km (50 mi) long. In that zone, the US would build a canal, then administer, fortify, and defend it "in perpetuity".
The city of Panama was founded on August 15, 1519, by Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias Dávila. The city was the starting point for expeditions that conquered the Inca Empire in Peru. It was a stopover point on one of the most important trade routes in the American continent, leading to the fairs of Nombre de Dios and Portobelo, through which passed most of the gold and silver that Spain took from the Americas. 

The city has both public and private schools. Most of the private schools are at least bilingual. Higher education is headed by the two major public universities: the University of Panama and the Technological University of Panama. There are private universities, such as the Universidad Católica Santa María La Antigua, the Universidad Latina de Panama, the Universidad Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología (ULACIT), the Distance and Open University of Panama (UNADP), Universidad del Istmo Panama, the Universidad Maritima Internacional de Panama, and the Universidad Especializada de las Americas. Also, there are Panama Branches of the Nova Southeastern University (its main campus is in Ft. Lauderdale in Broward County, Florida); the University of Oklahoma; the Central Texas University; the University of Louisville which runs a sister campus in the city,[36] and the Florida State University, which operates a broad curriculum program[37] in an academic and technological park known as Ciudad del Saber.
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