Explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, Panama broke with Spain in 1821 and joined the union of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela - named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When the latter dissolved in 1830, Panama remained part of Colombia. Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and promptly signed a treaty allowing for the construction of a canal. The Panama Canal was built between 1904 and 1914. The country enjoys economic prosperity as a result of being a major shipping port for North and South American trade.
Cited from: http://globaledge.msu.edu/countries/
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