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The Pacific Coast of Nicaragua was settled as a Spanish colony from Panama in the early 16th century. Independence from Spain was declared in 1821 and the country became an independent republic in 1838. Britain occupied the Caribbean Coast in the first half of the 19th century, but gradually ceded control of the region in subsequent decades. Violent opposition to governmental manipulation and corruption spread to all classes by 1978 and resulted in a short-lived civil war that brought the Marxist Sandinista guerrillas to power in 1979. Nicaraguan aid to leftist rebels in El Salvador caused the US to sponsor anti-Sandinista contra guerrillas through much of the 1980s. Free elections in 1990, 1996, and again in 2001 saw the Sandinistas defeated. The country has slowly rebuilt its economy during the 1990s, but was hard hit by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
Geography Nicaragua
Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Costa Rica and Honduras
Geographic coordinates:
13 00 N, 85 00 W
Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean
total: 129,494 sq km
water: 9,240 sq km
land: 120,254 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than the state of New York
Land boundaries:
total: 1,231 km
border countries: Costa Rica 309 km, Honduras 922 km
910 km
Maritime claims - as described in UNCLOS 1982 (see Notes and Definitions):
territorial sea: 200 NM
continental shelf: natural prolongation
tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands
extensive Atlantic coastal plains rising to central interior mountains; narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mogoton 2,438 m
Natural resources:
gold, silver, copper, tungsten, lead, zinc, timber, fish
Land use:
arable land: 20.24%
permanent crops: 2.38%
other: 77.38% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
880 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
destructive earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides; extremely susceptible to hurricanes
Environment - current issues:
deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography - note:
largest country in Central America; contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua
People Nicaragua
5,359,759 (July 2004 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 38.1% (male 1,038,887; female 1,001,518)
15-64 years: 58.9% (male 1,570,494; female 1,586,706)
65 years and over: 3% (male 71,125; female 91,029) (2004 est.)
Median age:
total: 20.2 years
male: 19.8 years
female: 20.6 years (2004 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.97% (2004 est.)
Birth rate:
25.5 births/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Death rate:
4.54 deaths/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Net migration rate:
-1.22 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2004 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 30.15 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 26.38 deaths/1,000 live births (2004 est.)
male: 33.73 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 70.02 years
male: 67.99 years
female: 72.16 years (2004 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.89 children born/woman (2004 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
5,800 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
400 (2001 est.)
noun: Nicaraguan(s)
adjective: Nicaraguan
Ethnic groups:
mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 69%, white 17%, black 9%, Amerindian 5%
Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant
Spanish (official)
note: English and indigenous languages on Atlantic coast
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 67.5%
male: 67.2%
female: 67.8% (2003 est.)
Government Nicaragua
Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Nicaragua
conventional short form: Nicaragua
local short form: Nicaragua
local long form: Republica de Nicaragua
Government type:
Administrative divisions:
15 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento) and 2 autonomous regions* (regiones autonomistas, singular - region autonomista); Atlantico Norte*, Atlantico Sur*, Boaco, Carazo, Chinandega, Chontales, Esteli, Granada, Jinotega, Leon, Madriz, Managua, Masaya, Matagalpa, Nueva Segovia, Rio San Juan, Rivas
15 September 1821 (from Spain)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 15 September (1821)
9 January 1987, with reforms in 1995 and 2000
Legal system:
civil law system; Supreme Court may review administrative acts
16 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Enrique BOLANOS Geyer (since 10 January 2002); Vice President Jose RIZO Castellon (since 10 January 2002); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Enrique BOLANOS Geyer (since 10 January 2002); Vice President Jose RIZO Castellon (since 10 January 2002); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held 4 November 2001 (next to be held by November 2006)
election results: Enrique BOLANOS Geyer (PLC) elected president - 56.3%, Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra (FSLN) 42.3%, Alberto SABORIO (PCN) 1.4%; Jose RIZO Castellon elected vice president
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (92 seats; members are elected by proportional representation and party lists to serve five-year terms; one seat for previous President, one seat for runner-up in previous Presidential election
elections: last held 4 November 2001 (next to be held by November 2006)
election results: percent of vote by party - Liberal Alliance (ruling party - includes PCCN, PLC, PALI, PLIUN, and PUCA) 46.03%, FSLN 36.55%, PCN 2.12%; seats by party - Liberal Alliance 53, FSLN 38, PCN 1
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (16 judges elected for five-year terms by the National Assembly)
Political parties and leaders:
Conservative Party of Nicaragua or PCN [Mario RAPPACCIOLI]; Independent Liberal Party or PLI [Virgilio GODOY]; Liberal Alliance (ruling alliance including Liberal Constitutional Party or PLC, New Liberal Party or PALI, Independent Liberal Party for National Unity or PLIUN, and Central American Unionist Party or PUCA) [leader NA]; Nicaraguan Party of the Christian Path or PCCN [Guillermo OSORNO, Roberto RODRIGUEZ]; Nicaraguan Resistance Party or PRN [Salvador TALAVERA]; Sandinista National Liberation Front or FSLN [Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra]; Sandinista Renovation Movement or MRS [leader NA]; Unity Alliance or AU [leader NA]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
National Workers Front or FNT is a Sandinista umbrella group of eight labor unions including - Farm Workers Association or ATC, Health Workers Federation or FETASALUD, Heroes and Martyrs Confederation of Professional Associations or CONAPRO, National Association of Educators of Nicaragua or ANDEN, National Union of Employees or UNE, National Union of Farmers and Ranchers or UNAG, Sandinista Workers Central or CST, and Union of Journalists of Nicaragua or UPN; Permanent Congress of Workers or CPT is an umbrella group of four non-Sandinista labor unions including - Autonomous Nicaraguan Workers Central or CTN-A, Confederation of Labor Unification or CUS, Independent General Confederation of Labor or CGT-I, and Labor Action and Unity Central or CAUS; Nicaraguan Workers' Central or CTN is an independent labor union; Superior Council of Private Enterprise or COSEP is a confederation of business groups
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Salvador STADTHAGEN (since 5 December 2003)
consulate(s) general: Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York
FAX: [1] (202) 939-6542
telephone: [1] (202) 939-6570
chancery: 1627 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Barbara Calandra MOORE
embassy: Apartado Postal 327, Kilometer 4.5 Carretera Sur, Managua
mailing address: APO AA 34021
telephone: [505] 266-6010, 266-2298, 266-6013
FAX: [505] 266-9074
Flag description:
three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), white, and blue with the national coat of arms centered in the white band; the coat of arms features a triangle encircled by the words REPUBLICA DE NICARAGUA on the top and AMERICA CENTRAL on the bottom; similar to the flag of El Salvador, which features a round emblem encircled by the words REPUBLICA DE EL SALVADOR EN LA AMERICA CENTRAL centered in the white band; also similar to the flag of Honduras, which has five blue stars arranged in an X pattern centered in the white band
Economy Nicaragua
Economy - overview:
Nicaragua, one of the hemisphere's poorest countries, faces low per capita income, massive unemployment, and huge external debt. Distribution of income is one of the most unequal on the globe. While the country has made progress toward macroeconomic stability over the past few years, GDP annual growth of 1.5% - 2.5% has been far too low to meet the country's need. Nicaragua will continue to be dependent on international aid and debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Nicaragua has undertaken significant economic reforms that are expected to help the country qualify for more than $4 billion in debt relief under HIPC in early 2004. Donors have made aid conditional on the openness of government financial operation, poverty alleviation, and human rights. A three-year poverty reduction and growth plan, agreed to with the IMF in December 2002, guides economic policy.
purchasing power parity - $11.49 billion (2003 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
1.4% (2003 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $2,200 (2003 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 30.5%
industry: 22.5%
services: 47% (2002 est.)
Population below poverty line:
50% (2001 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 0.7%
highest 10%: 48.8% (1998)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
60.3 (1998)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
5.3% (2003 est.)
Labor force:
1.7 million (1999)
Labor force - by occupation:
services 43%, agriculture 42%, industry 15% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate:
22% plus considerable underemployment (2003 est.)
revenues: $726 million
expenditures: $908 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)
food processing, chemicals, machinery and metal products, textiles, clothing, petroleum refining and distribution, beverages, footwear, wood
Industrial production growth rate:
4.4% (2000 est.)
Electricity - production:
2.549 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 83.9%
hydro: 7.7%
other: 8.4% (2001)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
2.388 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
17 million kWh (2001)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
24,500 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
Oil - imports:
Agriculture - products:
coffee, bananas, sugarcane, cotton, rice, corn, tobacco, sesame, soya, beans; beef, veal, pork, poultry, dairy products
$632 million f.o.b. (2003 est.)
Exports - commodities:
coffee, shrimp and lobster, cotton, tobacco, bananas, beef, sugar, gold
Exports - partners:
US 59.4%, El Salvador 7.5%, Honduras 4.8% (2002)
$1.658 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, raw materials, petroleum products, consumer goods
Imports - partners:
US 23.6%, Costa Rica 10.2%, Guatemala 7.8%, Venezuela 7.1%, El Salvador 6%, Mexico 4.9%, South Korea 4.6% (2002)
Debt - external:
$5.8 billion (2003 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
Substantial foreign support (2001)
gold cordoba (NIO)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
gold cordobas per US dollar - 14.25 (2003), 14.25 (2002), 13.37 (2001), 12.68 (2000), 11.81 (1999)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Nicaragua
Telephones - main lines in use:
171,600 (2002)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
202,800 (2002)
Telephone system:
general assessment: inadequate system being upgraded by foreign investment
domestic: low-capacity microwave radio relay and wire system being expanded; connected to Central American Microwave System
international: country code - 505; satellite earth stations - 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region) and 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 63, FM 32, shortwave 1 (1998)
1.24 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
3 (plus seven low-power repeaters) (1997)
320,000 (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
3,370 (2002)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
3 (2000)
Internet users:
90,000 (2002)
Transportation Nicaragua
total: 6 km
narrow gauge: 6 km 1.067-m gauge (2002)
total: 19,032 km
paved: 2,094 km
unpaved: 16,938 km (2000)
2,220 km (including 2 large lakes)
oil 54 km (2003)
Ports and harbors:
Bluefields, Corinto, El Bluff, Puerto Cabezas, Puerto Sandino, Rama, San Juan del Sur
Merchant marine:
176 (2003 est.)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 11
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 3 (2003 est.)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 165
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 23
under 914 m: 141 (2003 est.)
Military Nicaragua
Military branches:
Army (includes Navy), Navy
Military manpower - military age:
18 years of age (2004 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 1,399,356 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 858,022 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 61,869 (2004 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$30.8 million (2003)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
1.2% (2003)
Transnational Issues Nicaragua
Disputes - international:
territorial disputes with Colombia over the Archipelago de San Andres y Providencia and Quita Sueno Bank region; the 1992 ICJ ruling for El Salvador and Honduras advised a tripartite resolution to establish a maritime boundary in the Gulf of Fonseca, which considers Honduran access to the Pacific; legal dispute over navigational rights of San Juan River on border with Costa Rica
Illicit drugs:
transshipment point for cocaine destined for the US and transshipment point for arms-for-drugs dealing