Panama profile

President: Juan Carlos Varela

Juan Carlos Varela Mr Varela's poll victory came as a surprise

Juan Carlos Varela came from behind to win the presidential election in May 2014.

Panama's vice-president and a former ally of outgoing President Ricardo Martinelli, Mr Varela won a clear majority and easily defeated the president's hand-picked successor, Jose Domingo Arias.

Mr Varela leads the conservative Panamenista Party and helped Mr Martinelli get elected in 2009. But the two had a bitter falling out in 2011, when Mr Varela was fired from his job as foreign minister. He subsequently became one of Mr Martinelli's fiercest critics, accusing his government of corruption.

Mr Varela, aged 50, is the scion of one of Panama's richest families and studied engineering in the United States. He is likely to continue many of Mr Martinelli's economic policies, but says he will focus on helping the poor and reducing inequality.

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