Introduction    Nicaragua Top of Page
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. The 2008 municipal elections were characterized by widespread irregularities. Nicaragua's infrastructure and economy - hard hit by the earlier civil war and by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 - are slowly being rebuilt, but democratic institutions face new challenges under the ORTEGA administration.
   Geography    Nicaragua Top of Page
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: 130,370 sq km
land: 119,990 sq km
water: 10,380 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than New York state
Land boundaries:
total: 1,231 km
border countries: Costa Rica 309 km, Honduras 922 km
910 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 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)
Total renewable water resources:
196.7 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 1.3 cu km/yr (15%/2%/83%)
per capita: 237 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards:
destructive earthquakes; volcanoes; landslides; extremely susceptible to hurricanes
volcanism: Nicaragua experiences significant volcanic activity; Cerro Negro (elev. 728 m, 2,388 ft), which last erupted in 1999, is one of Nicaragua's most active volcanoes; its lava flows and ash have been known to cause significant damage to farmland and buildings; other historically active volcanoes include Concepcion, Cosiguina, Las Pilas, Masaya, Momotombo, San Cristobal, and Telica
Environment - current issues:
deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
largest country in Central America; contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua
   People    Nicaragua Top of Page
5,995,928 (July 2010 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 33.8% (male 1,013,866/female 976,430)
15-64 years: 62.9% (male 1,847,756/female 1,857,264)
65 years and over: 3.3% (male 85,782/female 110,101) (2010 est.)
Median age:
total: 22.5 years
male: 22.1 years
female: 22.9 years (2010 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.74% (2010 est.)
Birth rate:
22.77 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
Death rate:
4.28 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
Net migration rate:
-1.09 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
urban population: 57% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 1.8% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 24.16 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 27.14 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 21.03 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 71.78 years
male: 69.61 years
female: 74.05 years (2010 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.51 children born/woman (2010 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
7,700 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 500 (2007 est.)
Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2009)
noun: Nicaraguan(s)
adjective: Nicaraguan
Ethnic groups:
mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 69%, white 17%, black 9%, Amerindian 5%
Roman Catholic 58.5%, Evangelical 21.6%, Moravian 1.6%, Jehovah's Witness 0.9%, other 1.7%, none 15.7% (2005 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.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 11 years
male: 11 years
female: 11 years (2003)
Education expenditures:
3.1% of GDP (2003)
   Government    Nicaragua Top of Page
Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Nicaragua
conventional short form: Nicaragua
local long form: Republica de Nicaragua
local short form: Nicaragua
Government type:
name: Managua
geographic coordinates: 12 09 N, 86 17 W
time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)
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
15 September 1821 (from Spain)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 15 September (1821)
9 January 1987; revised in 1995, 2000, and 2005
Legal system:
civil law system; Supreme Court may review administrative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
16 years of age; universal
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
(For more information visit the World Leaders website )
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 on 5 November 2006 (next to be held by November 2011)
election results: Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra elected president - 38.1%, Eduardo MONTEALEGRE 29%, Jose RIZO 26.2%, Edmundo JARQUIN 6.4%
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (92 seats; 90 members 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 on 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 May 2009: seats by party - FSLN 38, PLC 20, BDN 17, ALN 6, MRS 3, APRE 1, Independent 7
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Corte Suprema de Justicia (16 judges elected for five-year terms by the National Assembly)
Political parties and leaders:
Alliance for the Republic or APRE; Conservative Party or PC [Azalia AVILES Salmeron]; Independent Liberal Party or PLI [Indalecio RODRIGUEZ]; Liberal Constitutionalist Party or PLC [Jorge CASTILLO Quant]; Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance or ALN [Alejandro MEJIA Ferreti]; Sandinista National Liberation Front or FSLN [Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra]; Sandinista Renovation Movement or MRS [Enrique SAENZ Navarrete]
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)
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Francisco Obadiah CAMPBELL Hooker
chancery: 1627 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone: [1] (202) 939-6570, 6573
FAX: [1] (202) 939-6545
consulate(s) general: Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco
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
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; the banner is based on the former blue-white-blue flag of the Federal Republic of Central America; the blue bands symbolize the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, while the white band represents the land between the two bodies of water
note: 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 Top of Page
Economy - overview:
Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America, has widespread underemployment and poverty. GDP fell by almost 3% in 2009, due to decreased export demand in the US and Central American markets, lower commodity prices for key agricultural exports, and low remittance growth - remittances are equivalent to almost 15% of GDP. 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, but increases in the minimum wage during the ORTEGA administration will likely erode its comparative advantage in this industry. Nicaragua relies on international economic assistance to meet internal- and external-debt financing obligations. Foreign donors have curtailed this funding, however, in response to November 2008 electoral fraud. 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.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$16.51 billion (2009 est.)
$16.91 billion (2008 est.)
$16.39 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$6.151 billion (2009 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
-2.4% (2009 est.)
3.2% (2008 est.)
3.2% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$2,800 (2009 est.)
$2,900 (2008 est.)
$2,900 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 17.5%
industry: 26.5%
services: 56.1% (2009 est.)
Labor force:
2.283 million (2009 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 29%
industry: 19%
services: 52% (2006 est.)
Unemployment rate:
8.2% (2009 est.) 6.1% (2008 est.)
note: underemployment was 46.5% in 2008
Population below poverty line:
48% (2005)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1.4%
highest 10%: 41.8% (2005)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
43.1 (2001) 60.3 (1998)
Investment (gross fixed):
23.4% of GDP (2009 est.)
revenues: $1.324 billion
expenditures: $1.465 billion (2009 est.)
Public debt:
63.1% of GDP (2009 est.) 56.1% of GDP (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
3.7% (2009 est.) 19.8% (2008 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
NA% (31 December 2009) NA% (31 December 2008)
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
14.04% (31 December 2009 ) 13.17% (31 December 2008 )
Stock of narrow money:
$507.5 million (31 December 2008) $465.1 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of broad money:
$2.523 billion (31 December 2009) $2.317 billion (31 December 2008)
Stock of domestic credit:
$4.272 billion (31 December 2008 est.) $4.133 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
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:
-2.8% (2009 est.)
Electricity - production:
3.286 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - consumption:
2.569 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports:
63.95 million kWh (2007 est.)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption:
29,000 bbl/day (2009 est.)
Oil - exports:
213 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports:
29,570 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2010 est.)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2010 est.)
Current account balance:
-$802 million (2009 est.) -$1.513 billion (2008 est.)
$2.384 billion (2009 est.) $2.538 billion (2008 est.)
Exports - commodities:
coffee, beef, shrimp and lobster, tobacco, sugar, gold, peanuts; textiles and apparel
Exports - partners:
US 61.98%, El Salvador 7.74%, Costa Rica 3.67% (2009)
$3.93 billion (2009 est.) $4.749 billion (2008 est.)
Imports - commodities:
consumer goods, machinery and equipment, raw materials, petroleum products
Imports - partners:
US 22.63%, Venezuela 12.27%, Mexico 9.05%, Costa Rica 8.66%, China 7.16%, Guatemala 6.59%, El Salvador 5.63% (2009)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$1.573 billion (31 December 2009 est.) $1.141 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt - external:
$4.7 billion (31 December 2009 est.) $4.596 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Exchange rates:
cordobas (NIO) per US dollar - 20.336 (2009), 19.374 (2008), 18.457 (2007), 17.582 (2006), 16.733 (2005)
   Communications    Nicaragua Top of Page
Telephones - main lines in use:
312,000 (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
3.108 million (2008)
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; fixed-line teledensity roughly 5 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular telephone subscribership is increasing and reached 55 per 100 persons in 2008; 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) (2008)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 63, FM 32, shortwave 1 (1998)
Television broadcast stations:
3 (plus 7 repeaters) (1997)
Broadcast media:
multiple privately-owned terrestrial television networks, supplemented by cable TV in most urban areas; of more than 100 radio broadcast stations, nearly all are privately owned; Radio Nicaragua is government-owned and Radio Sandino is controlled by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) (2007)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
157,162 (2010)
Internet users:
199,800 (2009)
   Transportation    Nicaragua Top of Page
143 (2010)
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 (2010)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 132
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 16
under 914 m: 115 (2010)
oil 54 km (2010)
total: 19,137 km
paved: 2,033 km
unpaved: 17,104 km (2009)
2,220 km (navigable waterways as well as the use of the large Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua; rivers serve only the sparsely populated eastern part of the country) (2010)
Ports and terminals:
Bluefields, Corinto
   Military    Nicaragua Top of Page
Military branches:
National Army of Nicaragua (Ejercito Nacional de Nicaragua, ENN; includes Navy, Air Force) (2010)
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: 1,452,107
females age 16-49: 1,552,698 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,227,757
females age 16-49: 1,335,653 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 69,093
female: 67,522 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures:
0.6% of GDP (2006)
   Transnational Issues    Nicaragua Top of Page
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

This page was last updated on 14 May 2009


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