Facts about Nicaragua

World Facts Index

NicaraguaThe 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.

Geography of Nicaragua

Middle America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Costa Rica and Honduras
13 00 N, 85 00 W
total: 129,494 sq km
water: 9,240 sq km
land: 120,254 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
910 km
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: natural prolongation
territorial sea: 200 NM
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
Natural hazards:
destructive earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides; extremely susceptible to hurricanes
Environment current issues:
deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution
Geography - note:
largest country in Central America; contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua

Population of Nicaragua

5,785,846 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 36.4% (male 1,031,897/female 994,633)
15-64 years: 60.5% (male 1,677,633/female 1,691,353)
65 years and over: 3.1% (male 76,758/female 97,855)
Median age:
20.9 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
28.11 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 70.63 years
male: 68.55 years
female: 72.81 years
Fertility rate:
2.75 children born/woman
noun: Nicaraguan(s)
adjective: Nicaraguan
Ethnic groups:
mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 69%, white 17%, black 9%, Amerindian 5%
Roman Catholic 72.9%, Evangelical 15.1%, Moravian 1.5%, Episcopal 0.1%, other 1.9%, none 8.5%
Spanish 97.5% (official), Miskito 1.7%, other 0.8%
note: English and indigenous languages on Atlantic coast
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 67.5%
male: 67.2%
female: 67.8%


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Nicaragua
local long form: Republica de Nicaragua
Government type:
Administrative divisions:
15 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento) and 2 autonomous regions* (regiones autonomistas, singular - region autonomista); 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, with reforms in 1995 and 2000
Legal system:
civil law system; Supreme Court may review administrative acts
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).
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (92 seats; 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); note - current Assembly has only 91 seats
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (16 judges elected for five-year terms by the National Assembly)


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 fueled by high oil prices, however, are a serious bottleneck to growth.

$16.17 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 16.5%
industry: 27.5%
services: 56%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
2.01 million
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 30.5%
industry: 17.3%
services: 52.2%
5.6% plus underemployment of 46.5%
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 83.9%
hydro: 7.7%
other: 8.4% 
nuclear: 0%
food processing, chemicals, machinery and metal products, textiles, clothing, petroleum refining and distribution, beverages, footwear, wood
coffee, bananas, sugarcane, cotton, rice, corn, tobacco, sesame, soya, beans; beef, veal, pork, poultry, dairy products
coffee, beef, shrimp and lobster, tobacco, sugar, gold, peanuts
Export partners:
US 64.3%, El Salvador 7%, Mexico 3.6% 
consumer goods, machinery and equipment, raw materials, petroleum products
Import partners:
US 20.4%, Venezuela 9.1%, Costa Rica 8.8%, Guatemala 7%, Mexico 5.9%, El Salvador 5%, South Korea 4.6%
gold cordoba (NIO)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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