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Facts and Figures on Panama

May 1, 1999

Here are facts and figures on Panama, which holds presidential elections Sunday:

POPULATION: 2.8 million, including 828,000 in Panama City.

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AREA: 32,000 square miles, or about the size of South Carolina.

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LOCATION: Situated on the narrowest part of the Central American isthmus between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Bordered by Colombia to the east and Costa Rica to the west.

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GOVERNMENT: President is elected to five-year term. No immediate re-election allowed. Thirteen-member Cabinet. Single-chamber Legislative Assembly made up of 72 members.

Over the last 30 years, control has passed between the social-democratic Democratic Revolutionary Party founded by military strongman Gen. Omar Torrijos and the populist Arnulfista Party named for three-time president Arnulfo Arias. The last military ruler, Gen. Manuel Noriega, was ousted in 1989 by U.S. forces.

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ECONOMY: The service sector _ finance, insurance, canal-related services, the Colon Free Zone _ represents more than 70 percent of GDP. Agriculture accounts for another 11 percent, mainly bananas and other fruit, corn, sugar, rice, coffee, shrimp, timber, vegetables and cattle. The dollar-based economy is one of the most stable in Latin America.

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CANAL: The 50-mile-long canal will pass into Panamanian control on Dec. 31, after having been operated by the United States since 1914. An average of 35 ships pass through each day, paying tolls based on their weight. Gross revenue is $500 million a year.

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PEOPLE: About 70 percent of mixed Indian and European ancestry. West Indians account for another 14 percent; Caucasians 10 percent; Indians 6 percent. Eighty-five percent are Roman Catholic and the remainder largely evangelical Protestant.

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