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Panama: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations

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Congressional rept.

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With five successive elected civilian governments, the Central American nation of Panama has made notable political and economic progress since the 1989 U.S. military intervention that ousted the regime of General Manuel Antonio Noriega from power. Current President Ricardo Martinelli of the center-right Democratic Change CD party was elected in May 2009, defeating the ruling center-left Democratic Revolutionary Party PRD in a landslide. Martinelli was inaugurated to a five-year term on July 1, 2009. Martinelli s Alliance for Change coalition with the Paname ista Party PP also captured a majority of seats in Panama s National Assembly. Panama s service-based economy has been booming in recent years with a growth rate of 7.6 in 2010 and 10.6 in 2011 largely because of the ongoing Panama Canal expansion project, now slated for completion in early 2015. The CD s coalition with the PP fell apart at the end of August 2011when President Martinelli sacked PP leader Juan Carlos Varela as Foreign Minister. Varela, however, retains his position as Vice President. Tensions between the CD and the PP had been growing throughout 2011, largely related to which party would head the coalition s ticket for the 2014 presidential election. Despite the breakup of the coalition, the strength of the CD has grown significantly since 2009 because of defections from the PP and the PRD and it now has a majority on its own in the legislature. President Martinelli s strong approval rating diminished in the aftermath of his break with the PP in 2011, but has recovered recently. President Martinelli s has been criticized by civil society groups and political opponents for taking a heavy-handed approach toward governing and for not being more consultative. At times, strong public protests have resulted in President Martinelli backing away from unpopular policy initiatives.

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  • Government and Political Science

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