The standard of living in Panama is relatively high by Latin American measurements. Visit AbbreviationFinder to see the definitions of PAN and acronym for Panama. By contrast, Panama follows the Central American pattern with very large class and regional differences. About 14 percent of the population lives in poverty (below US $ 2/day; 2010), and is found mainly in rural areas.
During the 1970s, the situation for the majority of the population was improved through agricultural, health and education reforms, government employment programs and labor market legislation. The reforms included social insurance, paid vacation and an extra monthly salary per year. Changed politics and economic crisis have subsequently weakened social reforms. There are 16 doctors and 22 hospital beds per 10,000 residents (2011).
In May 2001, the trade union movement and student organizations organized comprehensive demonstrations against price increases of 66% in public transport. The protests cost over 100 wounded and dozens arrested during clashes with police. The government had also raised prices for electricity, gasoline and telephony. After negotiations and the church becoming a mediator, the price increases were canceled.
After the collapse of the peace process in Colombia, Panama decided to reinforce its military presence along borders with Colombia for fear that the conflict would spread to Panama. The country has already granted asylum to hundreds who have fled the civil war.
In April 2002, the Truth Commission presented its report on disappearances in the period 1968-89. It stated that 110 out of a total of 189 disappearances could not be resolved. During its investigations, the Commission had carried out 35 excavations at old barracks and airports, and had found 48 corpses here. Parts of the documentation that formed the basis of the report were provided by the United States Department of Defense, which gave Panama’s military responsibility for the crimes committed. By comparison, the United States killed 5-10,000 civilians during its 1989 invasion of Panama.
In the May 2004 election – the first following the transfer of the Panama Canal to Panama – Social Democrat Martin Torrijos was elected president with 47.4% of the vote. He is the son of former president, Omar Torrijos. During the election campaign, Torrijos faced allegations against his own person and his father, but he refused to go into this polemic and launched the idea of the “new homeland”.
On May 26, 2005, a general strike was launched by trade unions opposing the government’s proposed “welfare reform.” The strike forced President Torrijos to lower his retirement age and workers’ social security contributions. The retirement age was lowered from 65 to 63 years for men and from 62 to 60 years for women. After a 1-month strike, Torrijos was forced to completely suspend social reform for 90 years “to analyze it and ensure the normalization of Panama”.
In August, Panama resumed its diplomatic relations with Cuba, which had been suspended by Habana for a year due to President Moscow’s decision to grant amnesty to 4 prisoners accused of having planned to assassinate Cuba’s President Fidel Castro.