Panama: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations [Updated November 16, 2006] [open pdf - 223KB]
"With four successive elected civilian governments, Panama has made notable political and economic progress since the 1989 U.S. military intervention that ousted the regime of General Manuel Noriega from power. The current President, Martin Torrijos of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), was elected in May 2004 and inaugurated to a 4-year term on September 1, 2004. The most significant challenges facing the Torrijos government have included dealing with the funding deficits of the country's social security fund; developing plans for the expansion of the Panama Canal; and combating unemployment and poverty. After protests and a protracted strike by construction workers, doctors, and teachers in 2005, the Torrijos government was forced to modify its plans for reforming the social security fund. In April 2006, the government unveiled its ambitious plans to build a third lane and new set of locks that will double the Canal's capacity. A constitutionally required referendum on the expansion project was held on October 22, 2006, with 78% of voters supporting the project. The United States has close relations with Panama, stemming in large part from the extensive linkages developed when the Panama Canal was under U.S. control and Panama hosted major U.S. military installations. The current bilateral relationship is characterized by extensive cooperation on counternarcotics efforts, assistance to help Panama assure the security of the Canal and its border with Colombia, and negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement."
CRS Report for Congress, RL30981
Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC): http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/