What is the political situation in panama today?

Panama is a multiparty constitutional democracy. The country has no military forces. The massive protests shaking Panama over a copper mine that represents around 4% of the country's GDP are the latest sign of discontent in the country, as they cast doubts on the future of mining and represent a major challenge for the government of President Laurentino Cortizo ahead of the elections next May. Panama and the United States belong to many of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Maritime Organization, and the World Trade Organization. Panama is a founding member of the Alliance for Development in Democracy (ADD) and the Alliance of the Americas for Economic Prosperity (APEP).

Protests intensified rapidly due to “widespread public discontent” with a highly corrupt and indifferent political system,” said Carlos Guevara Mann, professor of political science at the Panama campus of Florida State University. In addition to bilateral trade, Panama facilitates trade as a transshipment hub for all economies in the Western Hemisphere, including the United States, creating an important service-based economy in the country. The protests included street demonstrations and blockades on major highways, causing shortages in Panama City, the country's capital. Camila Aybar, a youth organizer based in Panama City who supports the protests, said they are essentially taking place because people feel they haven't been consulted about the controversial mine.

MESICIC experts indicated that Panama continues to face obstacles to creating, modifying and implementing regulations, as well as to publishing timely information on anti-corruption initiatives. The United States established diplomatic relations with Panama in 1903, after its separation from Colombia. More information about Panama is available on the Panama page and in other State Department publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet. Environmental policy has also gained renewed attention as a severe drought ravages the country, limiting shipping through the Panama Canal. On the sidelines of the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, the Government of Panama publicly supported the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection (Los Angeles Declaration), which commits states to protecting the safety and dignity of all migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons, regardless of their immigration status, and recognizes that addressing irregular migration requires a regional approach.

Jorge Luis Quijano, former head of the Panama Canal Authority, said in August that, while the use of mine water does not currently affect water levels in the Canal, it could do so in the future.

Abigail Angelotti
Abigail Angelotti

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