The Puzzle of Panamanian Exceptionalism

Issue Date January 2022
Volume 33
Issue 1
Page Numbers 85–99
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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.

About the Author

James Loxton is Senior Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Sydney. His most recent book is Authoritarianism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

View all work by James Loxton