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Nicaragua Index

From 1912 to 1988, the córdoba was the basic unit of currency. Relatively stable during most of that period, the value of the córdoba was pegged to the United States dollar. One of the last economic decisions by the Somoza administration was a devaluation in April 1979 of the córdoba from US$1 = 7C$ to US$1 = 10C$, a value it held until 1985.

In 1985 mounting economic problems, especially the imposition of the trade embargo by the United States, forced the Ortega administration to opt for a multitiered exchange rate, with one rate for petroleum imports, one for agricultural goods, one for capital goods, and another used at government exchange houses. Amid this confusion, a black market sprang up offering significantly more córdobas per dollar than any of the official government rates. As inflation increased from 1985 through 1988, the value of the córdoba plummeted, and by mid-1988 the government exchange houses offered US$1 = C$20,000, while a United States dollar on the black market fetched 60,000 córdobas.

To curb hyperinflation, the government introduced its economic shock program in February 1988. Currency stabilization was an integral part of this package, and a new currency, the new córdoba (C$n--for value, see Glossary), was introduced. Each new córdoba equaled 1,000 old córdobas, and the new currency's exchange rate was set at US$1 = 10 new córdobas. By the end of 1988, however, the rate at government exchange houses had dropped to US$1 = 920 new córdobas.

Devaluation accelerated in 1989 and 1990. Immediately after the 1990 elections, the currency lost four-fifths of its value. By the end of 1990, it took 3.2 million new córdobas to buy a United States dollar on the black market. The government was unable to print money in large enough denominations to make simple transactions convenient.

To help control inflation, the Chamorro government introduced a third currency, the gold córdoba, in mid-1990. At first used only as an accounting device, this new currency was introduced gradually to the general populace, and for six months both currencies were legal tender, with a conversion rate of 5 million new córdobas to one gold córdoba. After April 31, 1991, the gold córdoba became the sole legal currency and was pegged to the United States dollar at a rate of US$1 = 5 gold córdobas, a rate it maintained throughout 1992. By July 1993, the exchange rate had slipped only slightly, to US$1 = 6.15 gold córdobas.

Data as of December 1993

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