Panama, officially the Republic of Panama,
is the southernmost country of Central America.
Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South
America, it is bordered by Costa Rica
to the northwest, Colombia
to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific
Ocean to the south.
Explored and settled by the Spanish in
the 16th century, Panama
broke with Spain in 1821 and
joined a union of Nueva Granada, Ecuador, and Venezuela
- named the Republic of Gran Colombia.
When the latter dissolved in 1830, Panama
remained part of Colombia.
With US backing, Panama
seceded from Colombia
in 1903. The Panama Canal was built by the US
Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977, an agreement was signed
for the complete transfer of the Canal from the US
by the end of the century.
Revenue from Canal tolls represents today a significant
portion of Panama's
GDP. Panama has the third or
fourth largest economy in Central America and it is also the fastest growing
economy and the largest per capita consumer in Central