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Nicaragua Historical and Political Profile

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Nicaragua Index

  • Nicaragua-Police and Law Enforcement
  • Nicaragua-Health
  • Nicaragua-Organized Labor
  • Nicaragua-SERVICES
  • Nicaragua-The Somoza Era, 1936-74
  • Nicaragua-Conflict Between the Executive and Legislative Branches POLITICAL DYNAMICS
  • Nicaragua-Tax Reform
  • Nicaragua-The Chamorro Era, 1990
  • Nicaragua-Growth of Opposition, 1981-83
  • Nicaragua-Chapter 2 - The Society and Its Environment
  • Nicaragua-Chapter 4 - Government and Politics
  • Nicaragua-Foreign Influences and Assistance
  • Nicaragua-Army
  • Nicaragua-Sandinista Guerrilla Movement, 1961-79
  • Nicaragua-Legacy of the Sandinista Revolution, 1977-79
  • Nicaragua-THE LIVES OF WOMEN
  • Nicaragua-Privatization and the Private Sector
  • Nicaragua-The Church
  • Nicaragua-Foreign Aid
  • Nicaragua-Small Non-UNO Parties
  • Nicaragua-Relations with the United States
  • Nicaragua-Inflation
  • Nicaragua-Sandinista People's Militia
  • Nicaragua-Producers' Groups
  • Nicaragua-The End of the Anastasio Somoza Debayle Era
  • Nicaragua-The Media
  • Nicaragua-The National Opposition Union (UNO) Coalition POLITICAL PARTIES
  • Nicaragua-Composition of the Labor Force
  • Nicaragua-The Universities
  • Nicaragua-The Regional Peace Effort and Retrenchment of the Revolution, 1986-90
  • Nicaragua-SOCIETY
  • Nicaragua-FAMILY
  • Nicaragua-Pre-Columbian and Colonial Era
  • Nicaragua-Colonial Rule
  • Nicaragua-Other Crops
  • Nicaragua-Consolidation of the Revolution, 1979-80 THE SANDINISTA YEARS, 1979-90
  • Nicaragua-Education
  • Nicaragua-Unemployment and Underemployment
  • Nicaragua-The Legislature
  • Nicaragua-Local Government
  • Nicaragua-RELIGION
  • Nicaragua-Human Rights
  • Nicaragua-Labor Unrest
  • Nicaragua-LABOR
  • Nicaragua-Prison Conditions
  • Nicaragua-GEOGRAPHY
  • Nicaragua-ECONOMY
  • Nicaragua-Currency
  • Nicaragua-Foreign Trade and the Balance of Payments EXTERNAL SECTOR
  • Nicaragua-Cotton
  • Nicaragua-Nationalization under the Sandinistas NATIONALIZATION AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR
  • Nicaragua-The Spanish Conquest COLONIAL PERIOD, 1522-1820
  • Nicaragua-Transportation
  • Nicaragua-Acknowledgments
  • Nicaragua-Secret Police and Intelligence
  • Nicaragua-National Guard, 1927-79
  • Nicaragua-Public Administration
  • Nicaragua-Sandinista National Liberation Front
  • Nicaragua-Diversification and Growth, 1945-77
  • Nicaragua-Preface
  • Nicaragua-The Judiciary
  • Nicaragua-Criminal Justice System
  • Nicaragua-Mining
  • Nicaragua-Sandinista People's Army 1979-90
  • Nicaragua-NICARAGUA
  • Nicaragua-Conservative and Liberal Regimes, 1858-1909
  • Nicaragua-The Sandinista Revolution
  • Nicaragua-Natural Regions CLIMATE AND TERRAIN
  • Nicaragua-DEMOGRAPHY
  • Nicaragua-Chapter 5 - National Security
  • Nicaragua-Institutionalization of the Revolution, 1984
  • Nicaragua-Deficits
  • Nicaragua-United States Intervention, 1909-33
  • Nicaragua-Air Force
  • Nicaragua-Telecommunications
  • Nicaragua-Electric Power and Energy
  • Nicaragua-Employment Conditions
  • Nicaragua-The UNO Electoral Victory
  • Nicaragua
  • Nicaragua-Country Profile
  • Nicaragua-National Independence, 1821-57 NINETEENTH CENTURY
  • Nicaragua-The Sandinista Era, 1979-90
  • Nicaragua-Fishing and Forestry NATURAL RESOURCES AND CONSERVATION
  • Nicaragua-Livestock
  • Nicaragua-Relations with Central American Countries
  • Nicaragua-INDUSTRY
  • Nicaragua-PROSPECTS
  • Nicaragua
  • Nicaragua
  • Nicaragua
  • Nicaragua
  • Nicaragua-ARMED FORCES AFTER 1990
  • Nicaragua
  • Nicaragua-Chapter 1 - Historical Setting
  • Nicaragua-Chapter 3 - The Economy
  • Nicaragua-Interest Groups
  • Nicaragua-The Rise of the FSLN
  • Nicaragua
  • Nicaragua-The Coffee Boom, 1840s-1940s
  • Nicaragua-Crops
  • Nicaragua-External Debt
  • Nicaragua-Agricultural Policy
  • Nicaragua-Foreign Intervention, 1850-68
  • Nicaragua-Climate
  • Nicaragua
  • Nicaragua-Bananas
  • Nicaragua
  • Nicaragua-Conservation and the Environment
  • Nicaragua-The Issue of Land Ownership
  • Nicaragua-Banking FINANCE
  • Nicaragua-The Executive
  • Nicaragua-AGRICULTURE
  • Nicaragua-Navy
  • BackgroundThe 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.
    LocationCentral America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Costa Rica and Honduras
    Area(sq km)total: 130,370 sq km
    land: 119,990 sq km
    water: 10,380 sq km
    Geographic coordinates13 00 N, 85 00 W
    Land boundaries(km)total: 1,231 km
    border countries: Costa Rica 309 km, Honduras 922 km

    Coastline(km)910 km

    Climatetropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands

    Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
    highest point: Mogoton 2,438 m
    Natural resourcesgold, silver, copper, tungsten, lead, zinc, timber, fish
    Land use(%)arable land: 14.81%
    permanent crops: 1.82%
    other: 83.37% (2005)

    Irrigated land(sq km)610 sq km (2003)
    Total renewable water resources(cu km)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 hazardsdestructive earthquakes; volcanoes; landslides; extremely susceptible to hurricanes
    Environment - current issuesdeforestation; soil erosion; water pollution
    Environment - international agreementsparty 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 - notelargest country in Central America; contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua
    Population5,891,199 (July 2009 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) (2009 est.)
    Median age(years)total: 22.1 years
    male: 21.7 years
    female: 22.5 years (2009 est.)
    Population growth rate(%)1.784% (2009 est.)
    Birth rate(births/1,000 population)23.25 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
    Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)4.3 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

    Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)-1.11 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
    Urbanization(%)urban population: 57% of total population (2008)
    rate of urbanization: 1.8% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
    Sex ratio(male(s)/female)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 (2009 est.)
    Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 25.02 deaths/1,000 live births
    male: 28.09 deaths/1,000 live births
    female: 21.8 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

    Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 71.5 years
    male: 69.35 years
    female: 73.75 years (2009 est.)

    Total fertility rate(children born/woman)2.57 children born/woman (2009 est.)
    Nationalitynoun: Nicaraguan(s)
    adjective: Nicaraguan
    Ethnic groups(%)mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 69%, white 17%, black 9%, Amerindian 5%

    Religions(%)Roman Catholic 58.5%, Evangelical 21.6%, Moravian 1.6%, Jehovah's Witness 0.9%, other 1.7%, none 15.7% (2005 census)
    Languages(%)Spanish 97.5% (official), Miskito 1.7%, other 0.8% (1995 census)
    note: English and indigenous languages on Atlantic coast

    Country nameconventional long form: Republic of Nicaragua
    conventional short form: Nicaragua
    local long form: Republica de Nicaragua
    local short form: Nicaragua
    Government typerepublic
    Capitalname: Managua
    geographic coordinates: 12 09 N, 86 17 W
    time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    Administrative divisions15 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
    Constitution9 January 1987; revised in 1995, 2000, and 2005

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

    Suffrage16 years of age; universal
    Executive branchchief 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%

    Legislative branchunicameral 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 May 2009: seats by party - FSLN 38, PLC 20, BDN 17, ALN 6, MRS 3, APRE 1, Independent 7

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

    Political pressure groups and leadersNational 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 participationBCIE, CACM, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAES, LAIA (observer), MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, PetroCaribe, RG, SICA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
    Flag descriptionthree 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 - overviewNicaragua 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, but 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. However, severe budget shortfalls resulting from the suspension of large amounts of direct budget support from foreign donors concerned with recent political developments has caused a slowdown in PRGF disbursements. Similarly, private sector concerns surrounding ORTEGA's handling of economic issues have dampened investment. Economic growth has slowed 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 are equivalent to almost 15% of GDP.
    GDP (purchasing power parity)$16.83 billion (2008 est.)
    $16.31 billion (2007 est.)
    $15.8 billion (2006 est.)
    note: data are in 2008 US dollars
    GDP (official exchange rate)$6.365 billion (2008 est.)
    GDP - real growth rate(%)3.2% (2008 est.)
    3.2% (2007 est.)
    3.9% (2006 est.)
    GDP - per capita (PPP)$2,900 (2008 est.)
    $2,900 (2007 est.)
    $2,800 (2006 est.)
    note: data are in 2008 US dollars
    GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 16.9%
    industry: 25.8%
    services: 57.3% (2008 est.)
    Labor force2.322 million (2008 est.)

    Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 29%
    industry: 19%
    services: 52% (2006 est.)
    Unemployment rate(%)5.6% (2008 est.)
    4.9% (2007 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 index43.1 (2001)
    60.3 (1998)
    Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)34.5% of GDP (2008 est.)
    Budgetrevenues: $1.271 billion
    expenditures: $1.594 billion (2008 est.)
    Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)19.8% (2008 est.)
    11.1% (2007 est.)

    Stock of money$507.5 million (31 December 2008)
    $465.1 million (31 December 2007)
    Stock of quasi money$1.81 billion (31 December 2008)
    $1.802 billion (31 December 2007)
    Stock of domestic credit$4.272 billion (31 December 2008)
    $4.133 billion (31 December 2007)
    Market value of publicly traded shares$NA
    Economic aid - recipient$471 million (2006 est.)

    Public debt(% of GDP)74.8% of GDP (2008 est.)
    69.5% of GDP (2004 est.)
    Agriculture - productscoffee, bananas, sugarcane, cotton, rice, corn, tobacco, sesame, soya, beans; beef, veal, pork, poultry, dairy products; shrimp, lobsters
    Industriesfood processing, chemicals, machinery and metal products, textiles, clothing, petroleum refining and distribution, beverages, footwear, wood

    Industrial production growth rate(%)3% (2008 est.)

    Current account balance-$1.475 billion (2008 est.)
    -$1.048 billion (2007 est.)
    Exports$2.675 billion (2008 est.)
    $2.313 billion (2007 est.)

    Exports - commodities(%)coffee, beef, shrimp and lobster, tobacco, sugar, gold, peanuts
    Exports - partners(%)US 32.3%, El Salvador 14.6%, Costa Rica 6.9%, Honduras 6.8%, Mexico 5.3%, Canada 5%, Guatemala 5% (2008)
    Imports$4.848 billion (2008 est.)
    $4.117 billion (2007 est.)

    Imports - commodities(%)consumer goods, machinery and equipment, raw materials, petroleum products
    Imports - partners(%)US 21%, Venezuela 14.3%, Mexico 8.4%, Costa Rica 8%, China 7.8%, Guatemala 6.1%, El Salvador 5.2% (2008)

    Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$1.141 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
    $1.103 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
    Debt - external$4.596 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
    $3.341 billion (31 December 2007 est.)

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

    Currency (code)gold cordoba (NIO)

    Telephones - main lines in use312,000 (2008)
    Telephones - mobile cellular3.039 million (2008)
    Telephone systemgeneral 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 increasing and now exceeds 50 per 100 persons; 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)
    Internet country code.ni
    Internet users185,000 (2008)
    Airports143 (2009)
    Pipelines(km)oil 54 km (2008)
    Roadways(km)total: 19,036 km
    paved: 2,299 km
    unpaved: 16,737 km (2005)

    Ports and terminalsBluefields, Corinto, El Bluff
    Military branchesNational Army of Nicaragua (ENN; includes Navy, Air Force) (2008)
    Military service age and obligation(years of age)17 years of age for voluntary military service; tour of duty 18-36 months (2008)
    Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 1,513,312
    females age 16-49: 1,507,999 (2008 est.)
    Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 1,277,878
    females age 16-49: 1,339,413 (2009 est.)
    Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 72,366
    female: 70,118 (2009 est.)
    Military expenditures(% of GDP)0.6% of GDP (2006)
    Disputes - internationalmemorials 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

    Electricity - production(kWh)3.286 billion kWh (2007 est.)
    Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 83.9%
    hydro: 7.7%
    nuclear: 0%
    other: 8.4% (2001)
    Electricity - consumption(kWh)2.569 billion kWh (2007 est.)
    Electricity - exports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
    Electricity - imports(kWh)63.95 million kWh (2007 est.)
    Oil - production(bbl/day)0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
    Oil - consumption(bbl/day)29,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
    Oil - exports(bbl/day)212.5 bbl/day (2007 est.)
    Oil - imports(bbl/day)29,570 bbl/day (2007 est.)
    Oil - proved reserves(bbl)0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
    Natural gas - production(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
    Natural gas - consumption(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
    Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
    Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)0.2% (2007 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS7,700 (2007 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - deathsfewer than 500 (2007 est.)
    Major infectious diseasesdegree 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)
    Literacy(%)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)(years)total: 11 years
    male: 11 years
    female: 11 years (2003)
    Education expenditures(% of GDP)3.1% of GDP (2003)

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