The republic of panama is an irregular 30,193square-mile (78,200-square-kilometer) strip of land connecting Costa Rica and Columbia. Early in the 20th century, the United States backed Panama in seceding from Colombia, paving the way for the construction of the Panama Canal, which provides a gateway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by way of the Caribbean Sea. By the end of the century, the United States had relinquished the canal area to the Panamanians in compliance with the original treaty.

Panama's natural resources include copper, mahogany forests, shrimp, and hydropower. With a per capita income of $7,300, Panama is ranked 109th in world incomes. Some 37 percent of the 3,039,150 people live in poverty. Even though the unemployment rate is 8.7 percent, Panama has a serious ...

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