According to Professor Rodrigo Miró, the first story about Panama was written by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés and published as part of the Historia General y Natural de Las Indias in 1535. Some poets and novelists born in Panamá city are Manuel María Ayala (1785–1824), Amelia Denis de Icaza (1836–1911), Darío Herrera (1870–1914), Ricardo Miró (1883–1940), Gaspar Octavio Hernández (1893–1918), Demetrio Korsi (1899–1957), Ricardo Bermúdez (1914–2000), Joaquín Beleño (1922–88), Ernesto Endara (1932–), Diana Morán (1932–87), José Córdova (1937–), Pedro Rivera (1939–), Moravia Ochoa López (1941–), Roberto Fernández Iglesias (1941–), Juan David Morgan (1942 –), Jarl Ricardo Babot (1946–), Giovanna Benedetti (1949–), Manuel Orestes Nieto (1951–), Moisés Pascual (1955–), Héctor Miguel Collado (1960–), David Robinson Orobio (1960–), Katia Chiari (1969–), Carlos Oriel Wynter Melo (1971–), José Luis Rodríguez Pittí (1971–), Arturo Wong Sagel (1980–) and Sofía Santim (1982–).
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, and the Florida State University, which operates a broad curriculum program in an academic and technological park known as Ciudad del Saber.
Since 1914 the 51-mile- (82-km-) long Panama Canal, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, has afforded a long-sought shortcut for shipping and assures the country’s standing as one of the most strategic transportation hubs of the world. The canal also secures Panama’s ongoing role in international affairs and world commerce. The United States relinquished jurisdiction of the Panama Canal on December 31, 1999, marking an unprecedented shift in Panamanian society. For the first time in nearly a century as an independent nation, Panama controlled the entirety of its national territory.
Many senior EU figures have been implicated in the Panama Papers scandal. The European Commissioner for Taxation, Pierre Moscovici, has said that the European Union as a whole had a "duty" to prevent the kind of tax avoidance uncovered in the Panama Papers scandal. Moscovici told reporters the use of offshore companies to hide what he called "shocking amounts" of financial assets from tax authorities was "unethical". He estimated that the tax shelters resulted in an annual loss of some €1 trillion in public finances, adding that the European Commission has attempted to tighten tax rules across the union since November 2014 due to the Luxembourg Leaks scandal, also revealed by the ICIJ, and that he hoped the extent of the Panama Papers revelations would spur countries to action.
The Panama Papers exposed a link between an American oil company's oil concessions and several powerful politicians in Angola. According to the leaked documents approximately fifteen shell companies funneled money through UBS bank accounts to elites in Portugal with direct ties to Helder Bataglia dos Santos of Escom, which describes itself as one of the largest investors in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The account of one company, Markwell Inc, received and sent on over $12 million in 2008 and 2009.
Money-laundering affects the first world as well, since a favored shell company investment is real estate in Europe and North America. London, Miami, New York, Paris, Vancouver and San Francisco have all been affected. The practice of parking assets in luxury real estate has been frequently cited as fueling skyrocketing housing prices in Miami, where the Miami Association of Realtors said that cash sales accounted for 90% of new home sales in 2015. "There is a huge amount of dirty money flowing into Miami that's disguised as investment," according to former congressional investigator Jack Blum. In Miami, 76% of condo owners pay cash, a practice considered a red flag for money-laundering.
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.
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".