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Executive Summary

Panama is a multiparty constitutional democracy. In 2019 voters chose Laurentino Cortizo Cohen as president in national elections that international and domestic observers considered generally free and fair.

The country has no military forces. The Panama National Police is principally responsible for internal law enforcement and public order, and the National Border Service handles border security. The country also has a National Aeronaval Service that is responsible for carrying out naval and air operations. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including censorship and the existence of criminal libel laws; and serious government corruption.

Impunity among security forces existed due to weak and decentralized internal control mechanisms for conduct and enforcement. Corruption was a serious problem in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches as well as in the security forces. The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future