Flag of Nicaragua

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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.


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


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

Land boundaries:

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


910 km

Maritime claims:

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: 14.81%
permanent crops: 1.82%
other: 83.37% (2005)

Irrigated land:

610 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

destructive earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides; extremely susceptible to hurricanes

Environment - current issues:

deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution

Geography - note:

largest country in Central America; contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua


5,570,129 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 36.4% (male 1,031,897/female 994,633)
15-64 years: 60.5% (male 1,677,633/female 1,691,353)
65 years and over: 3.1% (male 76,758/female 97,855) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 20.9 years
male: 20.5 years
female: 21.4 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

1.89% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

24.51 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

4.45 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

-1.17 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 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 (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 28.11 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 31.51 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 24.54 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 70.63 years
male: 68.55 years
female: 72.81 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

2.75 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.2% (2003 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

6,400 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

less than 500 (2003 est.)


noun: Nicaraguan(s)
adjective: Nicaraguan

Ethnic groups:

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


Roman Catholic 72.9%, Evangelical 15.1%, Moravian 1.5%, Episcopal 0.1%, other 1.9%, none 8.5% (1995 census)


Spanish 97.5% (official), Miskito 1.7%, other 0.8% (1995 census)
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.)

Country name:

conventional long form: Republic of Nicaragua
conventional short form: Nicaragua
local long form: Republica de Nicaragua
local short form: 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; reforms in 1995 and 2000

Legal system:

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


16 years of age; universal

Legislative branch:

unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (92 seats; 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); note - current Assembly has only 91 seats
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%, PC 2.12%; seats by party - Liberal Alliance 53, FSLN 38, PC 1

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (16 judges elected for five-year terms by the National Assembly)

Economy - overview:

Nicaragua, one of the Western Hemisphere's poorest countries, has low per capita income, widespread underemployment, and a heavy external debt burden. Distribution of income is one of the most unequal on the globe. While the country has progressed toward macroeconomic stability in the past few years, GDP annual growth has been far too low to meet the country's needs, forcing the country to rely on international economic assistance to meet fiscal and debt financing obligations. Nicaragua qualified in early 2004 for some $45 billion in foreign debt reduction under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative because of its earlier successful performances under its International Monetary Fund policy program and other efforts. In October 2005, Nicaragua ratified the US-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which will provide an opportunity for Nicaragua to attract investment, create jobs, and deepen economic development. High oil prices helped drive inflation to 9.6% in 2005, leading to a fall in real GDP growth to 4% from over 5% in 2004.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$13.24 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$5.03 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

4% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$2,400 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 18.1%
industry: 26.6%
services: 55.4% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

2.01 million (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 30.5%
industry: 17.3%
services: 52.2% (2003 est.)

Unemployment rate:

6.9% plus underemployment of 46.5% (2005 est.)

Population below poverty line:

50% (2001 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 1.2%
highest 10%: 45% (2001)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

55.1 (2001)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

9.6% (2005)

Investment (gross fixed):

30.8% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $1.134 billion
expenditures: $1.358 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2005 est.)

Public debt:

130% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

coffee, bananas, sugarcane, cotton, rice, corn, tobacco, sesame, soya, beans; beef, veal, pork, poultry, dairy products; shrimp, lobsters


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

Industrial production growth rate:

2.4% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

2.887 billion kWh (2004)

Electricity - consumption:

1.848 billion kWh (2004)

Electricity - exports:

21.8 million kWh (2004)

Electricity - imports:

23.3 million kWh (2004)

Oil - production:

14,300 bbl/day (2005 est.)

Oil - consumption:

25,200 bbl/day (2005 est.)

Oil - exports:

758.9 bbl/day (2004)

Oil - imports:

15,560 bbl/day (2005 est.)

Current account balance:

-$799.8 million (2005 est.)


$1.55 billion f.o.b.; note - includes free trade zones (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

coffee, beef, shrimp and lobster, tobacco, sugar, gold, peanuts

Exports - partners:

US 64.8%, El Salvador 7%, Mexico 3.6% (2004)


$2.865 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

consumer goods, machinery and equipment, raw materials, petroleum products

Imports - partners:

US 22.6%, Costa Rica 8.5%, Venezuela 8.4%, Guatemala 6.8%, Mexico 5.8%, El Salvador 4.9%, South Korea 4.5% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$730 million (31 December 2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$5.144 billion (31 December 2005 est.)

Economic aid - recipient:

$419.5 million (2005 est.)

Currency (code):

gold cordoba (NIO)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

214,500 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

738,600 (2004)

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)

Television broadcast stations:

3 (plus seven low-power repeaters) (1997)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

12,628 (2005)

Internet users:

125,000 (2005)


176 (2005)

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 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 165
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 23
under 914 m: 141 (2005)


oil 54 km (2004)


total: 6 km
narrow gauge: 6 km 1.067-m gauge (2004)


total: 18,658 km
paved: 2,120 km
unpaved: 16,538 km (2003)


2,220 km (including lakes Managua and Nicaragua) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Bluefields, Corinto, El Bluff

Military branches:

Army (includes Navy, Air Force)

Disputes - international:

Nicaragua filed a claim against Honduras in 1999 and against Colombia in 2001 at the ICJ over disputed maritime boundary involving 50,000 sq km in the Caribbean Sea, including the Archipelago de San Andres y Providencia and Quita Sueno Bank; 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