The countries of Central America proceeding from the south of Mexico to the northern tip of South America are Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Each small country has a popularly elected government with universal suffrage. The following is a brief description of each country's government:
A former British colony, Belize gained its independence in 1981. Belize models itself on the British parliamentary system with a Prime Minister at its head. The country is divided administratively into six districts. Voting age is 18, and there is universal suffrage.
This turbulent Central American country is a constitutional democratic republic. The country is divided into 22 departments, and its head of state is the President, who may serve multiple, but nonconsecutive four-year terms. Voting age is 18 but active duty members of the armed forces may not vote and are confined to their barracks on election day.
During the 1980's, Honduras was a haven for anti-Communist guerrillas fighting against the Nicaraguan Sandinista government. Honduras was also an ally of El Salvador's struggle against left-wing guerrillas. Also a democratic constitutional republic, Honduras is divided into 18 departments. It's head of state is the President, who serves a four-year term. Voting age is 18 and is compulsory.
♦ El Salvador
El Salvador's 12-year civil war ended in 1992 when its government agreed to military and political reforms. This very small country is a republic, divided into 14 departments, with a President at the chief of state, who serves a single five-year term. Voting age is 18, and there is universal suffrage.
Still reeling from its ruinous civil war and American sponsorship of the anti-Sandinista guerrillas, Nicaragua is slowly rebuilding its infrastructure and economy. Also a republic, Nicaragua is divided into 15 departments with a President as the chief of state, who can serve multiple, but non-consecutive five year terms. Voting age is only 16, and there is universal suffrage.
♦ Costa Rica
Sometimes called "The Switzerland of Central America," Costa Rica has no standing army. The country is a democratic republic and is led by a president, who serves a single four-year term. There are 7 provinces. Voting age is 18 is compulsory.
Forming the land bridge between North and South America and split by the Panama Canal, Panama is a republic divided into 9 provinces and one territory. The head of government is the President, who can serve multiple five-year terms. Voting age is 18, universal, and compulsory.
For more information on each of the above countries, see the CIA World Fact Book on line.