History of Panama Credit Unions

Panama Credit Unions History

The U.S. Federal Credit Union Act of 1934 created the first national system of credit unions in the United States.  Massachusetts actually created the first credit union law in 1909 which inspired the federal law in 1934.

The credit union system worked so well in the U.S. that officials in the U.S. Panama Canal Zone requested assistance with establishing a similar system for Panama.  Harold Wright, a Bureau of Federal Credit Union regional sub-director in the U.S., went to Panama in 1947 to create cooperative banking for the country.

In October of 1948 Panama’s National Assembly passed a law creating a new corporate license creating 4 banking cooperatives outside of the U.S. Panama Canal Zone.

The Cristobal Federal Credit Union was the first serving the communities of Colon, Silver City, Camp Baird, and Camp Coiner all townships surrounding the Canal Zone.

Soon thereafter, the communities of Gamboa, Gatun, and Balboa created their own credit unions.

These credit unions totaled 1,600 members by the end of the first year.  Today,
three of the original four credit unions are still in operation.

Agricultural cooperatives began in 1952 with the Bocas del Toro cocoa cooperative.

As a result of the Panama Canal Treaty, 5 cooperatives were created in October of 1979 under U.S. federal laws for Panama workers in the U.S. Canal Zone replacing one that had been set up exclusively for U.S. “Zonians” living in the Canal Zone.

Since October of 1948 more than 430 cooperatives have been created including 211 credit unions.


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