Democracy and rights
Panama is a functioning democracy where fair
elections are regularly held and power shifts between
different parties. Freedom of speech and association is
generally respected even though the media is somewhat
circumscribed. However, corruption poses a serious
social problem that affects both politics and the
In terms of political and civil rights, Panama is
better off than most Latin American countries (though
significantly worse than neighboring Costa Rica).
Despite this, the regional cooperation organization OAS
has criticized government holders for misusing public
funds in connection with elections. Lack of mechanisms
against corruption and poor transparency in public
administration and the actions of the state power also
diminishes the assessment of the country. This is partly
due to the remnants of the dictatorship that ended three
Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Panama, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.
In comparisons concerning the functions of the rule
of law, Panama falls roughly in the middle among other
countries in the Latin America / Caribbean region. The
problems of corruption and the efficiency of the justice
system are reducing the cut. In comparison with other
high-income countries, the investment is poor, but the
country is also far down in terms of income.
In Transparency International's ranking of the
world's countries based on corruption, Panama is ranked
101 out of 180 countries. This has led to a
deterioration in recent years, but several other
countries in the region are still significantly worse
off (see list here).
Among several high-ranking people charged with
corruption are former President Ricardo Martinelli
(2009–2014), who was, however, released from the charges
in August 2019 (see Current Policy). Martinelli is the
first former president of Panama to face trial.
Violent crime is not as great a problem as in the
rest of the region. The homicide rate in 2016 fell to 10
homicides per 100,000 residents, for the first time
since 2007. The level that lasted for the next few years
is among the lowest in Latin America.
Freedom of expression and media
Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are
enshrined in the constitution and the direct censorship
gradually disappeared after the fall of the military
dictatorship in 1989. However, freedom of the press is
limited by laws on defamation and slander which are used
extensively. Defamation cases against journalists
usually result in fines.
The relationship between the media and state power
can be described as strained. The state tries to control
the media by controlling the availability of
information. One way of influencing it is also the
placement of state advertising, where critical media
organizations risk being disadvantaged. Journalists risk
legal proceedings if they write critically about
government policy or corruption scandals. This is
especially true when there are international
connections, as with the so-called Panama Papers that
were revealed in 2016 (see Current Policy).
Panama ranks 76 out of 180 countries in Reporters
Without Borders press freedom index in 2020 (the full
list is here). That means a pickup with over 37 seats in
Several leading media organizations launched a
campaign for freedom of expression in 2011 called Basta
ya! (That's enough!). The campaign was aimed at threats
and harassment that police and representatives of
President Ricardo Martinelli's government (2009–2014)
were considered to subject journalists to.
Judicial system and legal security
The nine members of the Supreme Court are proposed by
the President and approved by the National Assembly for
a ten-year term. The justice system is permeated by
corruption and subject to political influence.
At one point in 2016, Transparency International
called on the entire Supreme Court to resign, due to
corruption scandals and the failure to prosecute former
President Martinelli (see Calendar).
Prisons are substandard and overcrowding causes
severe congestion. More than half of the detainees have
not had their case tried in court. The lack of legal
security is considered to be one of the country's
biggest human rights problems.
There have also been reports of abuse by members of
security forces against participants in protest actions
in recent years.