In the three decades since the U.S. invasion that overthrew the dictatorship of General Manuel Noriega, Panama has undergone a remarkable—and largely overlooked—transformation. It has remained a stable democracy and is today one of Latin America’s most developed countries. This article draws attention to Panama’s rise and highlights several puzzling features: it is a rare case of successful democratization by military invasion; it is one of the world’s most unlikely cases of authoritarian successor party regeneration; it is a standout instance of effective resource management by a state-owned enterprise; and it has achieved rapid economic development despite extremely high levels of corruption.
The Puzzle of Panamanian Exceptionalism
Issue Date January 2022
Page Numbers 85–99