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 Nicaragua [Country Flag of Nicaragua]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Nicaragua]



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Background: Settled as a colony of Spain in the 1520s, Nicaragua gained its independence in 1821. 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 and again in 1996 saw the Sandinistas defeated. The country has slowly rebuilt its economy during the 1990s, but was hard hit by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.


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

Area - comparative: slightly smaller than the state of New York

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

Coastline: 910 km

Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 25-nm security zone
continental shelf: natural prolongation
territorial sea: 200 nm

Climate: tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands

Terrain: 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: 9%
permanent crops: 1%
permanent pastures: 46%
forests and woodland: 27%
other: 17% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 880 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: destructive earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and occasionally severe hurricanes

Environment - current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution; Hurricane Mitch damage

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea


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Population: 4,812,569 (July 2000 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 40% (male 971,580; female 936,888)
15-64 years: 57% (male 1,372,169; female 1,392,861)
65 years and over: 3% (male 60,539; female 78,532) (2000 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.2% (2000 est.)

Birth rate: 28.26 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Death rate: 4.9 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Net migration rate: -1.35 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.77 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2000 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 34.79 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 68.74 years
male: 66.81 years
female: 70.77 years (2000 est.)

Total fertility rate: 3.27 children born/woman (2000 est.)

noun: Nicaraguan(s)
adjective: Nicaraguan

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

Religions: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant

Languages: Spanish (official)
note: English and indigenous languages on Atlantic coast

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 65.7%
male: 64.6%
female: 66.6% (1995 est.)


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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

Data code: NU

Government type: republic

Capital: Managua

Administrative divisions: 15 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento), 2 autonomous regions* (regiones autonomistas, singular - region autonomista); Boaco, Carazo, Chinandega, Chontales, Esteli, Granada, Jinotega, Leon, Madriz, Managua, Masaya, Matagalpa, Nueva Segovia, Rio San Juan, Rivas, Atlantico Norte*, Atlantico Sur*

Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)

National holiday: Independence Day, 15 September (1821)

Constitution: 9 January 1987, with reforms in 1995 and 2000

Legal system: civil law system; Supreme Court may review administrative acts

Suffrage: 16 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Arnoldo ALEMAN Lacayo (10 January 1997); Vice President Enrique BOLANOS Geyer (10 January 1997); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Arnoldo ALEMAN Lacayo (10 January 1997); Vice President Enrique BOLANOS Geyer (10 January 1997); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
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; election last held 20 October 1996 (next to be held NA October 2001); note - in July 1995 the term of the office of the president was amended to five years
election results: Arnoldo ALEMAN Lacayo (Liberal Alliance - ruling party - includes PLC, PALI, PLIUN, and PUCA) 51.03%, Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra (FSLN) 37.75%, Guillermo OSORNO (PCCN) 4.10%, Noel VIDAURRE (PCN) 2.26%, Benjamin LANZAS (PRONAL) 0.53%, other (18 other candidates) 4.33%

Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (93 seats; members are elected by proportional representation to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 20 October 1996 (next to be held NA 2001)
election results: percent of vote by party - Liberal Alliance (ruling party - includes PLC, PALI, PLIUN, and PUCA) 46.03%, FSLN 36.55%, PCCN 3.73%, PCN 2.12%, MRS 1.33%; seats by party - Liberal Alliance 42, FSLN 36, PCCN 4, PCN 3, PRONAL 2, MRS 1, PRN 1, PNC 1, PLI 1, AU 1, UNO-96 Alliance 1

Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Corte Suprema, 16 judges elected for seven-year terms by the National Assembly

Political parties and leaders: Central American Integrationist Party or PIAC [leader NA]; Central American Unionist Party or PUCA [Blanca ROJAS Echaverry]; Conservative Action Movement or MAC [Hernaldo ZUNIGA]; Conservative National Party or PNC [Adolfo CALERO, Noel VIDAURRE]; Conservative Party of Nicaragua or PCN [Dr. Fernando AGUERO Rocha]; Independent Liberal Party or PLI [Virgilio GODOY]; Independent Liberal Party for National Unity or PLIUN [Carlos GUERRA Gallardo]; Liberal Constitutionalist Party or PLC [Jose RIZO Castellon]; Movement for Revolutionary Unity or MUR [leader NA]; National Democratic Party or PND [Alfredo CESAR Aguirre]; National Project or PRONAL [Antonio LACAYO Oyanguren]; Nationalist Liberal Party or PLN [Enrique SANCHEZ Herdocia]; Neoliberal Party or PALI [Adolfo GARCIA Esquivel]; Nicaraguan Democratic Movement or MDN [Alfredo GUZMAN]; Nicaraguan Party of the Christian Road or PCCN [Guillermo OSORNO, Roberto RODRIGUEZ]; Nicaraguan Resistance Party or PRN [Fabio GADEA]; Sandinista National Liberation Front or FSLN [Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra]; Sandinista Renovation Movement or MRS [Sergio RAMIREZ]; Social Christian Party or PSC [Erick RAMIREZ]; Social Democratic Party or PSD [Adolfo JARQUIN]; Unity Alliance or AU [Alejandro SERRANO]; UNO-96 Alliance [Alfredo CESAR Aguirre]
note: political blocs include: left - FSLN; center left - MRS, PSD, PSC, MUR, PIAC, AU, PCN, PND, PUCA, UNO-96 Alliance, and MDN; center right - PALI, PRN, PLI, PRONAL, and MAC; right - PCCN, PLC, PLIUN, PNC, and PLN

Political pressure groups and leaders: National Workers Front or FNT is a Sandinista umbrella group of eight labor unions: 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; and the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers or UNAG; National Workers Front or FNT is a Sandinista umbrella group of eight labor unions: Sandinista Workers Central or CST; Union of Journalists of Nicaragua or UPN; Permanent Congress of Workers or CPT is an umbrella group of four non-Sandinista labor unions: 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 is an independent labor union; Superior Council of Private Enterprise or COSEP is a confederation of business groups

International organization participation: BCIE, CACM, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, LAES, LAIA (observer), NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Francisco AGUIRRE Sacasa
chancery: 1627 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone: [1] (202) 939-6570
FAX: [1] (202) 939-6542
consulate(s) general: Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Oliver P. GARZA
embassy: Kilometer 4.5 Carretera Sur, Managua
mailing address: APO AA 34021
telephone: [505] (2) 662298, 666010, 666012, 666013, 666015, 666018, 666026, 666027, 666032, 666033
FAX: [505] (2) 669074

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; 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


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Economy - overview: Nicaragua is one of the hemisphere's poorest countries, with low per capita income, flagging socio-economic indicators, and huge external debt. The country has made significant progress toward macro-economic stabilization over the past few years - even with the damage caused by Hurricane Mitch in the fall of 1998. International aid, debt relief, and continued foreign investment have contributed to the stabilization process. GDP grew 6.3% in 1999, while inflation remained about 12%, and unemployment dropped. Nicaragua may qualify for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, though aid is conditioned on improving governability, the openness of government financial operations, poverty alleviation, and human rights.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $12.5 billion (1999 est.)

GDP - real growth rate: 6.3% (1999 est.)

GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $2,650 (1999 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 34%
industry: 22%
services: 44% (1998)

Population below poverty line: 50% (1999 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1.6%
highest 10%: 39.8% (1993)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 12% (1999 est.)

Labor force: 1.7 million (1999)

Labor force - by occupation: services 43%, agriculture 42%, industry 15% (1999 est.)

Unemployment rate: 10.5% (1999 est.); considerable underemployment

revenues: $527 million
expenditures: $617 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (1998 est.)

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

Industrial production growth rate: 3.2% (1998 est.)

Electricity - production: 2.714 billion kWh (1998)

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 53.43%
hydro: 35.34%
nuclear: 0%
other: 11.23% (1998)

Electricity - consumption: 2.52 billion kWh (1998)

Electricity - exports: 99 million kWh (1998)

Electricity - imports: 95 million kWh (1998)

Agriculture - products: coffee, bananas, sugarcane, cotton, rice, corn, tobacco, sesame, soya, beans; beef, veal, pork, poultry, dairy products

Exports: $573 million (f.o.b., 1998 est.)

Exports - commodities: coffee, shrimp and lobster, cotton, tobacco, beef, sugar, bananas; gold

Exports - partners: US 35%, Germany 13%, El Salvador 10%, Spain 4%, Costa Rica 4%, France 2% (1998)

Imports: $1.5 billion (c.i.f., 1999 est.)

Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, raw materials, petroleum products, consumer goods

Imports - partners: US 31%, Costa Rica 11%, Guatemala 8%, Venezuela 6%, El Salvador 5%, Mexico 4% (1998)

Debt - external: $5.7 billion (1999 est.)

Economic aid - recipient: pledges of $1.4 billion in new aid in 1999

Currency: 1 gold cordoba (C$) = 100 centavos

Exchange rates: gold cordobas (C$) per US$1 - 12.29 (December 1999),11.81 (1999), 10.58 (1998), 9.45 (1997), 8.44 (1996), 7.55 (1995)

Fiscal year: calendar year


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Telephones - main lines in use: 140,000 (1996)

Telephones - mobile cellular: 4,400 (1995)

Telephone system: low-capacity microwave radio relay and wire system being expanded; connected to Central American Microwave System
domestic: wire and microwave radio relay
international: satellite earth stations - 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region) and 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 63, FM 32, shortwave 1 (1998)

Radios: 1.24 million (1997)

Television broadcast stations: 3 (plus seven low-power repeaters) (1997)

Televisions: 320,000 (1997)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 5 (1999)


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total: 16,382 km
paved: 1,818 km
unpaved: 14,564 km (1998 est.)

Waterways: 2,220 km, including 2 large lakes

Pipelines: crude oil 56 km

Ports and harbors: Bluefields, Corinto, El Bluff, Puerto Cabezas, Puerto Sandino, Rama, San Juan del Sur

Merchant marine: none (1999 est.)

Airports: 182 (1999 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 11
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 3 (1999 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 171
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 26
under 914 m: 144 (1999 est.)


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Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force

Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age

Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 1,229,103 (2000 est.)

Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 755,002 (2000 est.)

Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 57,125 (2000 est.)

Military expenditures - dollar figure: $26 million (FY98)

Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 1.2% (FY98)

Transnational Issues

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Disputes - international: territorial disputes with Colombia over the Archipelago de San Andres y Providencia and Quita Sueno Bank; with respect to the maritime boundary question in the Golfo de Fonseca, the ICJ referred to the line determined by the 1900 Honduras-Nicaragua Mixed Boundary Commission and advised that some tripartite resolution among El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua likely would be required; maritime boundary dispute with Honduras in the Caribbean Sea

Illicit drugs: transshipment point for cocaine destined for the US and transshipment point for arms-for-drugs dealing

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