Findings of fishtail-shaped spearheads testify to the presence of Paleo-Indian hunters about 8000–6000 BC, and kitchen moorings from about 5000 BC. points to the importance of coastal resources. Ceramics are coated from about 2000 BC Between about 1500 and 500 BC established agriculture in Panama; together with trade, it laid the foundation for the type of chiefs societies that existed at the arrival of the Europeans. Compare Central America (Prehistory).
Panama was incorporated into the Spanish-American Empire in the 1510s and served first as a springboard for further conquests and then as a commercial hub between South America and Spain. However, the importance of the area diminished significantly after the British storming of Puerto Bello in 1739. From 1751 Panama was ruled from Bogotá in present Colombia. In 1821 it became independent from Spain but after a few months joined Gran Colombia, a federation between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Panama. After Gran Colombias resolution In 1830, Panama became part of Colombia.
Panama’s strategic location made the area attractive. In the 1850s, the United States built a railroad through the nose, and in 1879 a French consortium gained the rights to build a canal (compare Panama Canal). The project could not be completed, and in the early 1900s, the United States took over responsibility for canal construction (compare Hay – Pauncefote Treaty). In 1903, an agreement was signed with Colombia that in practice gave the United States sovereign rights over the canal zone, which stretched 8 km on either side of the planned canal. The Colombian parliament’s refusal to ratify the agreement gave rise to a Panamanian uprising, which, with US support in November 1903, led to the country’s independence. A new agreement was quickly signed, after which the construction of the canal began; the channel was completed in 1914. The channel and the struggle for control over it was a central issue in Panama from independence in 1903 until the United States handed over the channel to Panama on December 31, 1999.
From the beginning, the Panamanian Republic was characterized by great instability and recurring intervention from the United States. After World War II, the channel issue became increasingly inflamed. In 1968, the National Guard’s leader, Colonel Omar Torrijos, took power and ruled the country directly or indirectly until 1981. His popularity grew rapidly through a combination of socio-economic reforms and specific demands that the canal zone be returned to Panama. The US rejection stance changed when Jimmy Carter took office as president in 1977, and a new agreement came into force in 1979. Accordingly, the Channel Zone was abolished, and the United States undertook to discontinue its presence in the area by 1999.
After Torrijo’s death in a plane crash in 1981, a new unstable time began, and in 1983 General Manuel Noriega became Panama’s new strong man. After first collaborating with Noriega, the United States soon identified him as a leading drug smuggler in close cooperation with Fidel Castro’s government in Cuba. After several years of growing tension, opposition candidate Guillermo Endara won the presidential election in 1989. Noriega declared the election illegal and remained but was captured and deposed by a US force that invaded Panama in December 1989. Endara could then, with US support, take office.
In 1994, Ernesto Pérez (born 1946) was elected president. His goal was to reduce high unemployment and ensure the return of the Panama Canal to Panama in 1999. Perez’s policy was severely criticized by the opposition; Among other things, voices were raised against the reform of the education system and the miserable conditions in the country’s hospitals. At the 1999 elections, Mireya Moscoso (born 1946), widow of former politician Arnulfo Arias (1901–88), was elected new president. Moscoso became the first female president in Panama’s history. Her government was strongly characterized by corruption and popular protests against her privatization policy.
The 2004 presidential election was won by Martín Torrijos, son of Omar Torrijos, from the PRD party. His main project was to widen the canal to increase traffic. In a 2006 referendum, 80 percent voted for the proposal to broaden the channel, which is expected to double capacity and strengthen the country’s economy.
In the 2009 presidential election, Ricardo Martinelli, multi-millionaire and owner of the country’s largest food chain and founder of the Cambio Democrático (CD) party, won with 60 percent of the vote. Juan Carlos Varela of Partido Panameñista (PPA) became vice president, but after a few years he ended up collision course with the president. In the 2014 election, Varela was nominated as a candidate for PPA and won before the CD’s candidate. However, Cambio Democrático became the largest party in parliament, while the PPA came in third place after both the CD and the former ruling party Partido Revolucionario Democratico (PRD).
Since Varela took office as president, an investigation was started into whether his representatives were involved in corruption and illegal telephone interception. In 2015, Martinelli left the country and sought asylum in the United States. However, he was arrested and extradited to Panama in June 2018. However, Varela himself ended up in blustery weather due to his close collaboration with lawyer Ramón Fonseca (born 1952), one of the main characters in the scandal surrounding the so-called Panama Papers. These showed that Fonseca’s law firm was involved in advanced tax evasion arrangements while Fonseca acted as advisor to the president.
After more than ten years of work, the widening of the Panama Canal was completed in 2016, which doubles the capacity through denser traffic in the canal. The project cost around $ 6 billion and was the largest renovation of the canal since it was inaugurated in 1914. China has been one of the main financiers of the widening of the canal and in 2017, Panama established diplomatic relations with China and broke with its former ally Taiwan. The large infrastructure work led to high economic growth. Panama was one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America but major income gaps and social problems remain to be solved.
In the May 2019 presidential election, PRD candidate Laurentino (“Nito”) Cortizo took a tight victory after pledging major investments in education and social programs as well as hard-fought corruption. Cortizo represents the PRD’s traditional center-left politics but is at the same time value conservative in certain issues; for example, he opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. See also State of affairs and politics.