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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. After losing free and fair elections in 1990, 1996, and 2001, former Sandinista President Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra was elected president in 2006. The... See More



 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: 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 (Rank: 88)

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 (2008)

Total Renewable Water Resources:

 196.7 cu km (2000)

Freshwater Withdrawal:

 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), 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

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 Noun: Nicaraguan(s)
Adjective: Nicaraguan

Ethnic Groups:

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


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

Note: English and indigenous languages found on the Atlantic coast


 Roman Catholic 58.5%, Protestant 23.2% (Evangelical 21.6%, Moravian 1.6%), Jehovah's Witnesses 0.9%, other 1.7%, none 15.7% (2005 census)


 5,666,301 (July 2011 est.)

Age Structure:

 0-14 years: 31.7% (male 913,905/female 879,818)
15-64 years: 63.8% (male 1,743,591/female 1,874,025)
65 years and over: 4.5% (male 116,153/female 138,809) (2011 est.)

Median Age:

 Total: 22.9 years
Male: 22.1 years
Female: 23.7 years (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate:

 1.088% (2011 est.)

Birth Rate:

 19.46 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)

Death Rate:

 5.03 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)

Net Migration Rate:

 -3.54 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)


 Urban population: 57% of total population (2010)
Rate of urbanization: 2% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major Cities - Population:

 MANAGUA (capital) 934,000 (2009)

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 (2011 est.)

Maternal Mortality Rate:

 100 deaths/100,000 live births (2008)

Infant Mortality Rate:

 Total: 22.64 deaths/1,000 live births
Male: 25.94 deaths/1,000 live births
Female: 19.19 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)

Life Expectancy At Birth:

 Total population: 71.9 years
Male: 69.82 years
Female: 74.09 years (2011 est.)

Total Fertility Rate:

 2.12 children born/woman (2011 est.)

Health Expenditures:

 9.5% of GDP (2009)

Physicians Density:

 0.37 physicians/1,000 population (2003)

Hospital Bed Density:

 0.9 beds/1,000 population (2008)

Drinking Water Source:

 Urban: 98% of population
Rural: 68% of population
Total: 85% of population
Urban: 2% of population
Rural: 32% of population
Total: 15% of population (2008)

Sanitation Facility Access:

 Urban: 63% of population
Rural: 37% of population
Total: 52% of population
Urban: 37% of population
Rural: 63% of population
Total: 48% of population (2008)

HIV/AIDS - Adult Prevalence Rate:

 0.2% (2009 est.)

HIV/AIDS - People Living With HIV/AIDS:

 6,900 (2009 est.)

HIV/AIDS - Deaths:

 Fewer than 500 (2009 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)

Children Under 5 - Underweight:

 4.3% (2004)

Education Expenditures:

 3.1% of GDP (2003)


 Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 67.5%
Male: 67.2%
Female: 67.8% (2003 est.)

Average Years of Schooling:

 Total: 11 years
Male: 11 years
Female: 11 years (2003)

Unemployment, Youth Ages 15-24:

 Total: 8.6%
Male: 8.1%
Female: 9.7% (2006)

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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

International Law Organization Participation:

 Accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; non-party state to the ICCt


 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

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 6 November 2011 (next to be held by November 2016)

Election results: Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra reelected president; percent of vote - Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra 62.5%, Fabio GADEA 31%, Arnoldo ALEMAN 5.9%, other 0.6%

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 24, MRS 5; note - political parties have been reorganized to reflect the following seat distribution: as of 1 March 2011 - seats by party - FSLN 37, PLC 20, BDN 13, ALN 7, MRS 4, BUN 5, Independent 6

Judicial Branch:

 Supreme Court or Corte Suprema de Justicia (16 judges elected for five-year terms by the National Assembly); note - in 2010, President Ortega directly replaced seven justices on the Supreme Court

Political Parties and Leaders:

 Conservative Party or PC [Alejandro BOLANOS Davis]; 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

National Symbols:

 Turquoise-browed motmot (bird)

National Anthem:

 Name: "Salve a ti, Nicaragua" (Hail to Thee, Nicaragua)
Lyrics/music: Salomon Ibarra MAYORGA/traditional, arranged by Luis Abraham DELGADILLO

Note: although only officially adopted in 1971, the music was approved in 1918 and the lyrics in 1939; the tune, originally from Spain, was used as an anthem for Nicaragua from the 1830"s until 1876

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Economy - Overview:

 Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the Hemisphere, has widespread underemployment and poverty. 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. ORTEGA's promotion of mixed business initiatives, owned by the Nicaraguan and Venezuelan state oil firms, together with the weak rule of law, could undermine the investment climate for domestic and international private firms in the near-term. 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. Managua has an IMF extended Credit Facility program, which could help keep the government's fiscal deficit on target during the 2011 election year and encourage transparency in the use of Venezuelan off-budget loans and assistance. In early 2004, Nicaragua secured some $4.5 billion in foreign debt reduction under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, however, Managua still struggles with a high public debt burden. Nicaragua is gradually recovering from the global economic crisis as increased exports drove positive growth in 2010. The economy is expected to grow at a rate of about 3% in 2011.

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):

 $17.71 billion (2010 est.)
$16.95 billion (2009 est.)
$17.2 billion (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (Official Exchange Rate):

 $6.551 billion (2010 est.)

GDP - Real Growth Rate:

 4.5% (2010 est.)
-1.5% (2009 est.)
2.8% (2008 est.)

GDP - Per Capita (PPP):

 $3,000 (2010 est.)
$2,900 (2009 est.)
$3,000 (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - Composition By Sector:

 Agriculture: 18.5%
Industry: 25.9%
Services: 55.6% (2010 est.)

Labor Force:

 2.811 million (2010 est.)

Labor Force - By Occupation:

 Agriculture: 28%
Industry: 19%
Services: 53% (2010 est.)

Unemployment Rate:

 7.8% (2010 est.)
8.2% (2009 est.)

Note: underemployment was 46.5% in 2008

Population Below Poverty Line:

 48% (2005)

Household Income / Consumption By 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):

 26.2% of GDP (2010 est.)


 Revenues: $2.12 billion
Expenditures: $2.156 billion (2010 est.)

Taxes and Other Revenues:

 32.4% of GDP (2010 est.)

Budget Surplus / Deficit:

 -0.6% of GDP (2010 est.)

Public Debt:

 63.6% of GDP (2010 est.)
63.8% of GDP (2009 est.)

Inflation Rate (Consumer Prices):

 5.5% (2010 est.)
3.7% (2009 est.)

Central Bank Discount Rate:

 3% (31 December 2010 est.)
NA% (31 December 2008)

Commercial Bank Prime Lending Rate:

 13.32% (31 December 2010 est.)
14.04% (31 December 2009 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 Narrow Money:

 $1.229 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$965.6 million (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Broad Money:

 $2.924 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$2.523 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Domestic Credit:

 $4.003 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$4.061 billion (31 December 2009 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, knit and woven apparel, petroleum refining and distribution, beverages, footwear, wood

Industrial Production Growth Rate:

 1.5% (2010 est.)

Electricity - Production:

 3.419 billion kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - Production By Source:

 Fossil fuel: 83.9%
Hydro: 7.7%
Nuclear: 0%
Other: 8.4% (2001)

Electricity - Consumption:

 2.646 billion kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - Exports:

 0 kWh (2009 est.)

Electricity - Imports:

 2 million kWh (2009 est.)

Oil - Production:

 377 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Consumption:

 30,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Exports:

 742 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Imports:

 30,290 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Proven Reserves:

 0 bbl (1 January 2011 est.)

Natural Gas - Production:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Consumption:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Exports:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Imports:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Proven Reserves:

 0 cu m (1 January 2011 est.)

Current Account Balance:

 -$944 million (2010 est.)
-$827.9 million (2009 est.)


 $3.157 billion (2010 est.)
$2.39 billion (2009 est.)

Exports - Commodities:

 Coffee, beef, shrimp and lobster, tobacco, sugar, gold, peanuts; textiles and apparel

Exports - Partners:

 US 58.2%, El Salvador 7.7%, Canada 6.4%, Venezuela 4.2% (2010)


 $4.792 billion (2010 est.)
$3.929 billion (2009 est.)

Imports - Commodities:

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

Imports - Partners:

 US 23.4%, Venezuela 16.7%, Costa Rica 8.8%, China 7.2%, Mexico 6.7%, Guatemala 6%, El Salvador 4.6% (2010)

Reserves of Foreign Exchange and Gold:

 $1.799 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$1.573 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Debt - External:

 $4.739 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$4.42 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Exchange Rates:

 Convert Nicaragua Cordoba to Any Currency

Cordobas (NIO) per US dollar -
21.35 (2010)
20.34 (2009)
19.374 (2008)
18.457 (2007)
17.582 (2006)

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Telephones - Main Lines In Use:

 258,000 (2010)

Telephones - Cellular:

 3.771 million (2010)

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 2009; 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) (2009)

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)

Radio Broadcast Stations:

 AM 63, FM 32, shortwave 1 (1998)

Television Broadcast Stations:

 16 (2009)

Internet Country Code:


Internet Hosts:

 157,162 (2010)

Internet Users:

 199,800 (2009)

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 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

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Military Branches:

 National Army of Nicaragua (Ejercito Nacional de Nicaragua, ENN; includes Navy, Air Force) (2010)

Military Service Age and Obligation:

 18-30 years of age for voluntary military service; tour of duty 18-36 months; requires Nicaraguan nationality and 6th-grade education (2011)

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)

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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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Last Updated: December 2011

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