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  Introduction Back To Top

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 2001, saw the Sandinistas defeated, but voting in 2006 announced the return of former Sandinista President Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra. Nicaragua's infrastructure and economy - hard hit by the earlier civil war and by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 - are slowly being rebuilt.

  Geography Back To Top

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 1.3 cu km/yr (15%/2%/83%)
per capita: 237 cu m/yr (2000)

Total renewable water resources:
196.7 cu km (2000)

Land boundaries:
total: 1,231 km
border countries: Costa Rica 309 km, Honduras 922 km

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, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification

tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands

Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean

Geographic coordinates:
13 00 N, 85 00 W

Natural resources:
gold, silver, copper, tungsten, lead, zinc, timber, fish

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mogoton 2,438 m

extensive Atlantic coastal plains rising to central interior mountains; narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes

Geography - note:
largest country in Central America; contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua

total: 129,494 sq km
land: 120,254 sq km
water: 9,240 sq km

Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Costa Rica and Honduras

910 km

Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than the state of New York

Irrigated land:
610 sq km (2003)

Environment - current issues:
deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution

Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: natural prolongation

Natural hazards:
destructive earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides; extremely susceptible to hurricanes

Land use:
arable land: 14.81%
permanent crops: 1.82%
other: 83.37% (2005)

  People Back To Top

Total fertility rate:
2.63 children born/woman (2008 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 (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
6,400 (2003 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 71.21 years
male: 69.08 years
female: 73.44 years (2008 est.)

Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2008)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 67.5%
male: 67.2%
female: 67.8% (2003 est.)

Net migration rate:
-1.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Ethnic groups:
mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 69%, white 17%, black 9%, Amerindian 5%

Median age:
total: 21.7 years
male: 21.3 years
female: 22.1 years (2008 est.)

5,785,846 (July 2008 est.)

Education expenditures:
3.1% of GDP (2003)

Population growth rate:
1.825% (2008 est.)

Spanish 97.5% (official), Miskito 1.7%, other 0.8% (1995 census)
note: English and indigenous languages on Atlantic coast

Death rate:
4.33 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Infant mortality rate:
total: 25.91 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 29.06 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 22.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 500 (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 11 years
male: 11 years
female: 11 years (2003)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 34.6% (male 1,019,281/female 981,903)
15-64 years: 62.1% (male 1,792,398/female 1,803,133)
65 years and over: 3.3% (male 82,840/female 106,291) (2008 est.)

Birth rate:
23.7 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Roman Catholic 58.5%, Evangelical 21.6%, Moravian 1.6%, Jehovah's Witness 0.9%, other 1.7%, none 15.7% (2005 census)

noun: Nicaraguan(s)
adjective: Nicaraguan

  Government Back To Top

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Robert J. CALLAHAN
embassy: Kilometer 5.5 Carretera Sur, Managua
mailing address: American Embassy Managua, APO AA 34021
telephone: [505] 252-7100, 252-7888; 252-7634 (after hours)
FAX: [505] 252-7304

National holiday:
Independence Day, 15 September (1821)

16 years of age; universal

Government type:

Political pressure groups and leaders:
National Workers Front or FNT (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 (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 (an independent labor union); Superior Council of Private Enterprise or COSEP (a confederation of business groups)

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Arturo CRUZ Sequeira, Jr.
chancery: 1627 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone: [1] (202) 939-6570, [1] (202) 939-6573
FAX: [1] (202) 939-6545
consulate(s) general: Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco

International organization participation:

Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (92 seats; 90 members are elected by proportional representation and party lists to serve five-year terms; 1 seat for the previous president, 1 seat for the runner-up in previous presidential election)
elections: last held 5 November 2006 (next to be held by November 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - FSLN 38, PLC 25, ALN 23 (22 plus one for presidential candidate Eduardo MONTEALEGRE, runner-up in the 2006 presidential election), MRS 5, APRE 1 (outgoing President Enrique BOLANOS); note - as of 1 January 2009: seats by party - FSLN 38, PLC 25, BDN 15, ALN 6, MRS 3, APRE 1, Independent 4

Legal system:
civil law system; Supreme Court may review administrative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

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

15 September 1821 (from Spain)

Country name (Goverment):
conventional long form: Republic of Nicaragua
conventional short form: Nicaragua
local long form: Republica de Nicaragua
local short form: Nicaragua

Political parties and leaders:
Conservative Party or PC [Azalia AVILES Salmeron]; Liberal Constitutionalist Party or PLC [Jorge CASTILLO Quant]; Nicaraguan Democratic Bloc or BDN [Eduardo MONTEALEGRE]; Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance or ALN [Eliseo NUNEZ Sr.]; Sandinista National Liberation Front or FSLN [Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra]; Sandinista Renovation Movement or MRS [Enrique SAENZ Navarrete]

name: Managua
geographic coordinates: 12 09 N, 86 17 W
time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)

9 January 1987; reforms in 1995, 2000, and 2005

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra (since 10 January 2007); Vice President Jaime MORALES Carazo (since 10 January 2007); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra (since 10 January 2007); Vice President Jaime MORALES Carazo (since 10 January 2007)
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 (eligible for a second term so long as it is not consecutive); election last held 5 November 2006 (next to be held by November 2011)
election results: Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra elected president - 38.07%, Eduardo MONTEALEGRE 29%, Jose RIZO 26.21%, Edmundo JARQUIN 6.44%

Administrative divisions:
15 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento) and 2 autonomous regions* (regiones autonomistas, singular - region autonoma); Atlantico Norte*, Atlantico Sur*, Boaco, Carazo, Chinandega, Chontales, Esteli, Granada, Jinotega, Leon, Madriz, Managua, Masaya, Matagalpa, Nueva Segovia, Rio San Juan, Rivas

Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Corte Suprema de Justicia (16 judges elected for five-year terms by the National Assembly)

  Economy Back To Top

Exports - partners:
US 31.7%, El Salvador 14%, Honduras 9.3%, Costa Rica 7.2%, Canada 5.8%, Guatemala 5.5%, Mexico 4.8% (2007)

Electricity - consumption:
2.413 billion kWh (2006 est.)

Central bank discount rate:

Electricity - imports:
63.95 million kWh (2007 est.)

Current account balance:
-$1.31 billion (2008 est.)

Debt - external:
$3.214 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Unemployment rate:
3.9% plus underemployment of 46.5% (2008 est.)

Oil - exports:
808.5 bbl/day (2005)

GDP - per capita (PPP):
$3,000 (2008 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):
32.1% of GDP (2008 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:
$4.133 billion (31 December 2007)

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$17.37 billion (2008 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):
$6.561 billion (2008 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:
43.1 (2001)

Exchange rates:
gold cordobas (NIO) per US dollar - 19.374 (2008 est.), 18.457 (2007), 17.582 (2006), 16.733 (2005), 15.937 (2004)

GDP - real growth rate:
2% (2008 est.)

Stock of money:
$465.1 million (31 December 2007)

Labor force:
2.322 million (2008 est.)

Imports - partners:
US 22.5%, Mexico 13.5%, Costa Rica 8.4%, Venezuela 6.4%, Guatemala 6.2%, El Salvador 4.8% (2007)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
20.6% (2008 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 17%
industry: 26.1%
services: 56.9% (2008 est.)

Oil - imports:
29,700 bbl/day (2005 est.)

$3.183 billion f.o.b.; note - includes free trade zones (2008 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Currency (code):
gold cordoba (NIO)

Economy - overview:
Nicaragua has widespread underemployment and the second lowest per capita income in the Western Hemisphere. The US-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) has been in effect since April 2006 and has expanded export opportunities for many agricultural and manufactured goods. Textiles and apparel account for nearly 60% of Nicaragua's exports, however, recent increases in the minimum wage will likely erode its comparative advantage in this industry. Nicaragua relies on international economic assistance to meet internal- and external-debt financing obligations. In early 2004, Nicaragua secured some $4.5 billion in foreign debt reduction under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, and in October 2007, the IMF approved a new poverty reduction and growth facility (PRGF) program that should create some fiscal space for social spending and investment. The continuity of a relationship with the IMF helps support donor confidence, despite private sector concerns surrounding ORTEGA, which has dampened investment. Economic growth will slow in 2009, due to decreased export demand from the US and Central American markets, lower commodity prices for key agricultural exports, and low remittance growth - remittances account for almost 15% of GDP.

Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities:
consumer goods, machinery and equipment, raw materials, petroleum products

food processing, chemicals, machinery and metal products, textiles, clothing, petroleum refining and distribution, beverages, footwear, wood

Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)

Population below poverty line:
48% (2005)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
13.04% (31 December 2007)

Stock of quasi money:
$1.802 billion (31 December 2007)

Electricity - production:
3.012 billion kWh (2006 est.)

$5.279 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)

Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 29%
industry: 19%
services: 52% (2006 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$1.035 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Oil - consumption:
28,880 bbl/day (2006 est.)

Public debt:
53.6% of GDP (2008 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares:

Currency code:

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.2%
highest 10%: 33.8% (2001)

Exports - commodities:
coffee, beef, shrimp and lobster, tobacco, sugar, gold, peanuts

Economic aid - recipient:
$471 million (2006 est.)

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 83.9%
hydro: 7.7%
nuclear: 0%
other: 8.4% (2001)

Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

revenues: $1.271 billion
expenditures: $1.593 billion (2008 est.)

Fiscal year:
calendar year

Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2005 est.)

  Communications Back To Top

Internet users:
155,000 (2006)

Telephones - main lines in use:
247,900 (2006)

320,000 (1997)

Internet country code:

Radio broadcast stations:
AM 63, FM 32, shortwave 1 (1998)

1.24 million (1997)

Telephones - mobile cellular:
2.123 million (2007)

Television broadcast stations:
3 (plus 7 repeaters) (1997)

Telephone system:
general assessment: system being upgraded by foreign investment; nearly all installed telecommunications capacity now uses digital technology, owing to investments since privatization of the formerly state-owned telecommunications company
domestic: since privatization, access to fixed-line and mobile-cellular services has improved but teledensity still lags behind other Central American countries; connected to Central American Microwave System
international: country code - 505; the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) fiber optic submarine cable provides connectivity to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; satellite earth stations - 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region) and 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2007)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
3 (2000)

Internet hosts:
58,157 (2008)

  Transportation Back To Top

2,220 km (including lakes Managua and Nicaragua) (2008)

oil 54 km (2007)

total: 6 km
narrow gauge: 6 km 1.067-m gauge (2006)

Ports and terminals:
Bluefields, Corinto, El Bluff

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 (2007)

total: 19,036 km
paved: 2,299 km
unpaved: 16,737 km (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 152
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 16
under 914 m: 135 (2007)

163 (2007)

  Military Back To Top

Military service age and obligation:
17 years of age for voluntary military service; tour of duty 18-36 months (2008)

Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,513,312
females age 16-49: 1,507,999 (2008 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,235,400
females age 16-49: 1,302,318 (2008 est.)

Military branches:
National Army of Nicaragua (ENN; includes Navy, Air Force) (2008)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 72,689
female: 70,452 (2008 est.)

Military expenditures:
0.6% of GDP (2006)

  Transnational Issues Back To Top

Disputes - international:
memorials and countermemorials were filed by the parties in Nicaragua's 1999 and 2001 proceedings against Honduras and Colombia at the ICJ over the maritime boundary and territorial claims in the western Caribbean Sea, final public hearings are scheduled for 2007; 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

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