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Republic of Panama

             A Spanish explorer named Rodrigo de Bastidas discovered Panama in 1501. But Columbus claimed it for Spain 1 year later. In 1821, Spanish rule was overthrown, and Panama became a province of Columbia. Later on around 1907, the construction of the Panama Canal took place. It was being controlled by the United States. 7 years later the canal was finished. Until 1999 the canal was to remain in the United States hands, but when a treaty was signed, Panama assumed control of canal operations if they would guarantee its neutrality.
             Primary education is compulsory and free between the ages of 7 and 15. Most school-aged children complete secondary education also. But some rural families have difficulty sending their children to secondary schools because of lack of funds. After completing secondary education a student may go on to a vocational school or university.
             Panama has a somewhat strong economy slowly recovering from years of political instability. Panama has a very strong banking industry, financial services, and tourism. Their economy grew greatly after trade relations with the United States were restored. They have a high commercial debt but the government is attempting to resolve that problem. They also face high unemployment and a shortage of skilled labors. Almost half of the Panamanians live in poverty. About 11 percent lack the health care, education, and economic opportunities to rise above poverty.
             Key exports include bananas, shrimp, coffee, sugar, and clothing. About 27 percent of the labor force is employed in agriculture-related industries. .
             Panamanians enjoy hosting others in their homes. They are open, generous, and informal with their guests. They do not usually establish an ending time for the visit. Guests are not supposed to help wit the dishes, and are usually given goodbye gifts from the host. Rather than giving a gift back they return the favor with a dinner invitation.

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