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. Nicaragua’s infrastructure and economy – hard hit by the earlier civil war and by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 – are slowly being rebuilt.


Location: 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
Population: 5,727,707 (July 2012 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.)

Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Nicaragua

conventional short form: Nicaragua

local long form: Republica de Nicaragua

local short form: Nicaragua

Government type: republic
Telephones – main lines in use: 258,000 (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 3.771 million (2009)
Airports: 143 (2012)
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: 2

under 914 m: 4 (2012)

Military branches: National Army of 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.)


Nicaragua has widespread underemployment, one of the highest degrees of income inequality in the world, and the third lowest per capita income in the Western Hemisphere. While the country has progressed toward macroeconomic stability in the past few years, annual GDP growth has been far too low to meet the country’s needs, forcing the country to rely on international economic assistance to meet fiscal and 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 that should create fiscal space for social spending and investment.


The continuity of a relationship with the IMF reinforces donor confidence, despite private sector concerns surrounding ORTEGA, which has dampened investment. 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. Energy shortages fuelled by high oil prices, however, are a serious bottleneck to growth.

Transnational Issues:

Memorials and counter memorials 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