Nicaragua


Nicaragua
Nicaraguan, n., adj.
/nik'euh rah"gweuh/, n.
1. a republic in Central America. 4,386,399; 57,143 sq. mi. (148,000 sq. km). Cap.: Managua.
2. Lake. Spanish, Lago de Nicaragua. a lake in SW Nicaragua. 92 mi. (148 km) long; 34 mi. (55 km) wide; 3060 sq. mi. (7925 sq. km).

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Nicaragua

Introduction Nicaragua
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, 1996, and again in 2001 saw the Sandinistas defeated. The country has slowly rebuilt its economy during the 1990s, but was hard hit by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Geography Nicaragua -
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
Area: 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
Coastline: 910 km
Maritime claims: 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: 20.24% permanent crops: 2.38% other: 77.38% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 880 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: destructive earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides; extremely susceptible to hurricanes Environment - current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography - note: largest country in Central America; contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua People Nicaragua
Population: 5,023,818 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 38.3% (male 980,621; female 945,386) 15-64 years: 58.7% (male 1,464,468; female 1,483,082) 65 years and over: 3% (male 65,610; female 84,651) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.09% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 26.98 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 4.76 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -1.3 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/ female total population: 1 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 32.52 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 69.37 years female: 71.44 years (2002 est.) male: 67.39 years
Total fertility rate: 3.09 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.2% (2000/01 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 4,800 (2000/01 est.)
AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 360 (1999 est.)
Nationality: 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
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 68.2% (1999) male: 67.1% female: 70.5% (2000 est.) Government Nicaragua
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Nicaragua conventional short form: Nicaragua local short form: Nicaragua local long form: Republica de Nicaragua
Government type: republic
Capital: Managua Administrative divisions: 15 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento) and 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 Enrique BOLANOS Geyer (since 10 January 2002); Vice President Jose RIZO Castellon (since 10 January 2002); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government head of government: President Enrique BOLANOS Geyer (since 10 January 2002); Vice President Jose RIZO Castellon (since 10 January 2002); 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 4 November 2001 (next to be held by November 2006) election results: Enrique BOLANOS Geyer (PLC) elected president - 56.3%, Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra (FSLN) 42.3%, Alberto SABORIO (PC) 1.4%; Jose RIZO Castellon elected vice president
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (93 seats; members are elected by proportional representation to serve five-year terms) elections: last held 4 November 2001 (next to be held by November 2006) 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, PC 1, PLI 1, AU 1, UNO-96 1
Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (16 judges elected for five-year terms by the National Assembly) Political parties and leaders: Conservative Party of Nicaragua or PCN [Dr. Fernando AGUERO Rocha]; Independent Liberal Party or PLI [Virgilio GODOY]; Liberal Alliance (ruling alliance including Liberal Constitutional Party or PLC, New Liberal Party or PALI, Independent Liberal Party for National Unity or PLIUN, and Central American Unionist Party or PUCA) [leader NA]; National Conservative Party or PC [Pedro SOLARZANO, Noel VIDAURRE]; National Project or PRONAL [Benjamin LANZAS]; Nicaraguan Party of the Christian Path or PCCN [Guillermo OSORNO, Roberto RODRIGUEZ]; Nicaraguan Resistance Party or PRN [Salvador TALAVERA]; Sandinista National Liberation Front or FSLN [Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra]; Sandinista Renovation Movement or MRS [Sergio RAMIREZ]; Unity Alliance or AU [Alejandro SERRANO]; Union Nacional Opositora 96 or UNO-96 [Alfredo CESAR Aguirre] Political pressure groups and National Workers Front or FNT is a
leaders: 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 is 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 is an independent labor union; Superior Council of Private Enterprise or COSEP is a confederation of business groups International organization BCIE, CACM, CCC, ECLAC, FAO, G-77,
participation: IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITU, LAES, LAIA (observer), NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Carlos J. ULVERT consulate(s) general: Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York FAX: [1] (202) 939-6542 telephone: [1] (202) 939-6570 chancery: 1627 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Oliver
US: P. GARZA embassy: Apartado Postal 327, 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 Economy Nicaragua -
Economy - overview: Nicaragua, one of the hemisphere's poorest countries, faces low per capita income, flagging socio- economic indicators, and huge external debt. Distribution of income is extremely unequal. While the country has made progress toward macroeconomic stabilization over the past few years, a banking crisis and scandal has shaken the economy. Managua will continue to be dependent on international aid and debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Donors have made aid conditional on improving governability, the openness of government financial operation, poverty alleviation, and human rights. Nicaragua met the conditions for additional debt service relief in December 2000. Growth should move up in 2002 because of increased private investment and recovery in the global economy.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $12.3 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 2.5% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $2,500 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 33% industry: 23% services: 44% (2000) Population below poverty line: 50% (2001 est.) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 0.7%
percentage share: highest 10%: 48.8% (1998) Distribution of family income - Gini 60.3 (1998)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 7.4% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 1.7 million (1999) Labor force - by occupation: services 43%, agriculture 42%, industry 15% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate: 23% plus considerable underemployment (2001 est.)
Budget: revenues: $726 million expenditures: $908 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)
Industries: food processing, chemicals, machinery and metal products, textiles, clothing, petroleum refining and distribution, beverages, footwear, wood Industrial production growth rate: 4.4% (2000 est.) Electricity - production: 2.233 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 81.68% hydro: 9.4% other: 8.92% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 2.176 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 1 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 100 million kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: coffee, bananas, sugarcane, cotton, rice, corn, tobacco, sesame, soya, beans; beef, veal, pork, poultry, dairy products
Exports: $609.5 million (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: coffee, shrimp and lobster, cotton, tobacco, beef, sugar, bananas; gold
Exports - partners: US 57.7%, Germany 5.3%, Canada 4.2%, Costa Rica 3.3%, Honduras 3% (2000)
Imports: $1.6 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, raw materials, petroleum products, consumer goods
Imports - partners: US 23.9%, Costa Rica 11.4%, Venezuela 9.9%, Guatemala 7.9%, Mexico 5.9% (2000)
Debt - external: $6.1 billion (2001 est.) Economic aid - recipient: NA
Currency: gold cordoba (NIO)
Currency code: NIO
Exchange rates: gold cordobas per US dollar - 13.88 (January 2002), 13.37 (2001), 12.69 (2000), 11.81 (1999), 10.58 (1998), 9.45 (1997)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Nicaragua Telephones - main lines in use: 140,000 (1996) Telephones - mobile cellular: 7,911 (1997)
Telephone system: general assessment: inadequate system being upgraded by foreign investment domestic: low-capacity microwave radio relay and wire system being expanded; connected to Central American Microwave System 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 country code: .ni Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 3 (2000)
Internet users: 20,000 (2000) Transportation Nicaragua
Railways: total: 6 km narrow gauge: 6 km 1.067-m gauge note: carries mostly passengers from Chichigalpa to Ingenio San Antonio (2001)
Highways: total: 16,382 km paved: 1,818 km unpaved: 14,564 km (1998)
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 (2002 est.)
Airports: 182 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 11 2,438 to 3,047 m: 2 1,524 to 2,437 m: 3 914 to 1,523 m: 3 under 914 m: 3 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 171 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 25 under 914 m: 145 (2001) Military Nicaragua
Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 1,308,430 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 802,779 (2002 est.)
service: Military manpower - reaching males: 58,232 (2002 est.)
military age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $26 million (FY98)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 1.2% (FY98)
GDP: Transnational Issues Nicaragua 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; 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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officially Republic of Nicaragua

Country, Central America.

Area: 50,337 sq mi (130,373 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 5,024,000. Capital: Managua. Most of the people are mestizos (European and Indian mixed). Languages: Spanish (official), indigenous Indian languages, English. Religion: Roman Catholicism. Currency: córdoba oro. Nicaragua's western half consists of thickly forested mountain ranges and fertile valleys. Parallel to the Pacific coast is a belt of about 40 dormant and active volcanoes. The eastern coastline along the Caribbean Sea is known as the Mosquito Coast. Earthquakes are common and sometimes severe. Nicaragua has a developing market economy based largely on agriculture, light industries, and trade. It is a republic with one legislative house; its head of state and government is the president. The area has been inhabited for thousands of years, most notably by the Maya. Christopher Columbus arrived in 1502, and Spanish explorers discovered Lake Nicaragua soon thereafter. Nicaragua was governed by Spain until 1821, when it declared its independence. It was part of Mexico and then the United Provinces of Central America until 1938, when full independence was achieved. The U.S. intervened in political affairs by maintaining troops there (1912–33). Ruled by the dictatorial Somoza family (1936–79), Nicaragua was taken over by the Sandinista party after a popular revolt. They were opposed by armed insurgents, the U.S.-backed contras, from 1981. The Sandinista government nationalized several sectors of the economy but lost national elections in 1990. The new coalition government returned many economic activities to private control, but political and social unrest continued into the 21st century.

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▪ 2009

Area:
130,373 sq km (50,337 sq mi)
Population
(2008 est.): 5,667,000
Capital:
Managua
Head of state and government:
President Daniel Ortega Saavedra

      In 2008 Nicaraguan Pres. Daniel Ortega neared the completion of his second year in office. The coalition between the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) and the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance, which held the majority of seats in the National Assembly, collapsed, leading the PLC to renew its pact with Ortega's Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). The Supreme Electoral Council, which administered and monitored Nicaragua's elections, decertified the minority Conservative Party, the Sandinista Renewal Movement, and two indigenous parties, thereby stripping them of public electoral financing. Despite the renewed PLC-FSLN pact, the Supreme Court was unable to convene because of conflicts between the two parties over the distribution of judges across the court's four chambers. Tensions between the government and the media, particularly the opposition newspaper La Prensa, remained high.

      Following local elections on November 9, in which the FSLN was declared the winner in at least 91 contests, supporters of opposition political parties, alleging widespread fraud, took to the streets November 10–19 and clashed with police. In December the U.S. suspended an aid program and demanded an inquiry into the allegations.

      Nicaragua's budget for 2008 expanded social expenditures but remained within the guidelines of the International Monetary Fund. Ortega claimed $520 million in Venezuelan aid; however, this remained off the official budget and without state oversight. Much of this aid was intended for the Sandinistas' Citizen Power Councils, which had organized many of the FSLN's governmental social programs.

      The central bank of Nicaragua worked to increase foreign reserves and to return to more orthodox monetary policies aimed at controlling inflation. Nonetheless, high food and oil prices dampened economic growth, which was projected to slow to 3%, while raising inflation to a projected 21%. The government increased the minimum wage by 18%. Exports grew strongly, owing to rising coffee prices and expansion in the U.S. market. Despite a close relationship with Venezuela and an often conflictive one with the U.S., Nicaragua remained committed to the Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, which Venezuela opposed. Nicaragua sought to reduce its dependence on oil by bringing wind turbines and other renewable-resources projects online and signing an agreement with Brazil to build a 160-MW hydroelectric plant.

      Claiming the need for self-defense, particularly in regard to recent disputes with Colombia, Ortega pulled back from his 2007 offer to destroy more than half of Nicaragua's arsenal of SAM-7 missiles. In June the Rev. Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, a former foreign minister of Nicaragua, was elected to head the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly. In October the Nicaraguan government faced criticism from the UN Human Rights Committee for its comprehensive ban on abortion, which prohibited even therapeutic abortions—those performed when a pregnancy threatened the life of a mother.

Justin Wolfe

▪ 2008

Area:
130,373 sq km (50,337 sq mi)
Population
(2007 est.): 5,602,000
Capital:
Managua
Head of state and government:
Presidents Enrique Bolaños Geyer and, from January 10, Daniel Ortega Saavedra

      Nicaragua's former president Daniel Ortega (1984–90) took office on Jan. 10, 2007, after having been elected president in November 2006. Ortega's Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) garnered 41 seats in the National Assembly, while the Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS) won 3 seats. Nicaragua's liberal parties—the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) and the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN)—which signed a pact in September, held the majority.

      Former president Arnoldo Alemán's sentence for corruption was modified in March to allow him unlimited travel throughout the country. In July, however, a Panamanian judge ordered Alemán and Byron Jerez, Alemán's former revenue minister, to appear in court for money-laundering charges, and an arrest warrant was issued. In August the ALN introduced an amnesty bill to benefit the two previous administrations.

 The legality and constitutionality of the Citizen Power Councils introduced by Ortega were at issue throughout the year, which led to several confrontations between the executive, legislature, judiciary, and civil society. The Zero Hunger program was launched in May, providing assistance packages to the rural poor, who made up about 30% of the population. In July Ortega offered to destroy half of Nicaragua's remaining arsenal of SAM-7 missiles in exchange for U.S. medical donations.

      Nicaragua's nearly $1 billion debt with the Inter-American Development Bank was canceled. Nicaragua's government signed cooperation agreements with Venezuela, Brazil, and Iran. Venezuela agreed to fund social programs, provide low-cost fuel, and build an oil refinery. Sweden, however, announced that it would soon withdraw all development assistance. Nicaraguan police seized ExxonMobil storage tanks by court order in August, citing unpaid customs duties. Although a settlement was later reached that allowed temporary usage of the tanks to store Venezuelan fuel, barriers to distribution caused prices to rise. Nicaragua's projected economic growth rate was 3.9% with a 10% inflation rate. Daily blackouts began in July owing to the government's dispute with the transnational electric utility.

      On September 4 Hurricane Felix struck north of Puerto Cabezas as a Category 5 storm, killing more than100 people and leaving about 150 missing. (See Disasters .) Also in September, Nicaragua's National Assembly banned therapeutic abortions, despite national and international opposition from medical associations and women's and human rights groups. These abortions were previously allowed if three doctors certified that the pregnancy put a woman's health at risk.

Nadine Jubb

▪ 2007

Area:
130,373 sq km (50,337 sq mi)
Population
(2006 est.): 5,233,000
Capital:
Managua
Head of state and government:
President Enrique Bolaños Geyer

      The presidential and legislative elections held in November 2006 were the highlight of the year in Nicaragua. The four main contenders were the left-wing Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), the dissident Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS), the right-wing Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC), and the dissident Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN). In July Herty Lewites, the MRS presidential candidate, died of a heart attack. Though the U.S. government actively sought to impede an FSLN victory in the presidential race, FSLN candidate Daniel Ortega (Ortega, Daniel ) (see Biographies)—a former guerrilla leader and member of the Sandinista junta that took power in 1979 and a former president (1984–90) of the country—emerged victorious. Ortega, who captured 38.1% of the vote, probably benefited from a change in election rules that allowed a candidate to claim victory in the first round with only 35% of the vote, provided that figure was 5% above that of the nearest opponent. Eduardo Montealegre of the ALN came in second, with 29%. Although the FSLN won more seats in the National Assembly than any other single party, together the ALN and the PLC would control a majority of the seats. Ortega was scheduled to take office on Jan. 10, 2007. The PLC won legislative elections in both autonomous Caribbean regions in March.

      Former president Arnoldo Alemán, sentenced for corruption, continued to be under house arrest. In March 2005 Byron Jerez, Alemán's revenue minister, had had his own conviction for corruption overturned. A Panamanian court in May opened a trial in which Alemán was accused of having laundered $58 million, and the court issued an international arrest warrant for Alemán and Jerez.

      The projected economic growth rate was about 4%. About 80% of Nicaraguans lived on less than $2 a day, and 45% of the population subsisted on less than $1 a day. The Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. came into effect in April. The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries and the Multilateral Debt Relief initiatives granted Nicaragua a foreign- debt cancellation totaling $1,148,000,000. Rising world oil prices had an impact on Nicaraguan politics and the economy. In April an agreement was signed between the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA and the Nicaraguan Association of Municipalities to sell Venezuelan petroleum at economical prices. Shipments of oil were stalled because the central government would not provide storage facilities. For months electricity and water services were cut off for several hours daily throughout the country, owing to insufficient domestic production of energy and a dispute between the government and Union Fenosa, the private electricity distributor.

 A six-month strike by doctors, who earned between $200 and $500 monthly, ended in May. Women's existing right to therapeutic abortion was eliminated in October after the legislature banned all abortions, even those sought in the case of rape or when the mother's life was threatened by the pregnancy.

Nadine Jubb

▪ 2006

Area:
130,373 sq km (50,337 sq mi)
Population
(2005 est.): 5,487,000
Capital:
Managua
Head of state and government:
President Enrique Bolaños Geyer

      Nicaragua spent much of 2005 in crisis as the standoff continued between Pres. Enrique Bolaños and the main opposition parties—Daniel Ortega's left-wing Sandinista Front (FSLN) and Arnoldo Alemán's right-wing Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC). The crisis stemmed from constitutional reforms passed by the National Assembly in November 2004 limiting presidential powers. In January the three sides began a national dialogue after Bolaños threatened to declare a state of emergency. The dialogue ended in April when Bolaños vetoed the reforms.

      José Miguel Insulza, secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), intervened with a visit to the country, and a special envoy was appointed to persuade the sides to resume negotiations. In June the National Assembly threatened to revoke Bolaños's immunity from prosecution for electoral crimes allegedly committed during the 2001 presidential campaign, and it eventually did revoke the immunity of two of Bolaños's cabinet members. In August the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) upheld the reforms, and in September the OAS reiterated its call for a return to dialogue. The political crisis was defused in October when an agreement was reached under which the constitutional reforms would take effect after Bolaños left office in January 2007.

      Alemán, the former president of Nicaragua convicted of money laundering and other crimes in 2003, continued to be allowed to carry out his 20-year prison sentence at his private ranch, though in September restrictions on his movements were eased slightly. U.S. envoys unsuccessfully attempted to unite the country's right-wing parties, with an eye toward preventing an FSLN victory in the 2006 presidential elections.

      There were transport strikes in April and September. The weeks-long April strike in several cities saw many violent clashes. For two weeks in September, Nicaragua's Spanish-owned electric utility, Unión Fenosa, rationed power, causing sweeping blackouts, after the CSJ rejected rate increases. In October the International Monetary Fund insisted on a 25% rate increase.

      In October the National Assembly ratified the Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2006. Nicaragua was among 18 countries that would benefit from a $40 billion debt-relief package approved in June by the Group of Eight.

      In October Hurricane Beta caused considerable damage to homes, crops, infrastructure, and the ecosystem, mostly around cays and isolated communities on the Caribbean coast. A forestry law passed in November called for a 10-year ban on cutting and selling certain kinds of trees.

Nadine Jubb

▪ 2005

Area:
130,373 sq km (50,337 sq mi)
Population
(2004 est.): 5,360,000
Capital:
Managua
Head of state and government:
President Enrique Bolaños Geyer

      In February 2004 National Assembly deputies loyal to former president Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo, who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for money laundering and other crimes, failed to pass an amnesty bill overturning his 2003 conviction. Alemán, who had spent six months in a military hospital, was returned home in early December but was placed under house arrest.

      Politics was dominated by a three-way struggle between Pres. Enrique Bolaños Geyer, the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC), and the Sandinista Front (FSLN). In November municipal elections, the FSLN won 87 of the 152 municipalities, including Managua. The PLC won 57 municipalities, and a conservative alliance (APRE) formed to back President Bolaños placed a distant third. An ongoing dispute over a new judicial career law led to a two-day strike by judges and court workers and a physical confrontation in the National Assembly in March. In November President Bolaños garnered international support against FSLN and PLC threats to remove him from the presidency for having committed electoral crimes during the 2001 presidential campaign.

      The economy grew 4% in 2004. Remittances from family members overseas amounted to more than $800 million, about one-third of the GNP, and they outsized exports. In January Nicaragua was approved for the IMF's Highly Indebted Poor Country initiative, which reduced the country's foreign debt by 80%. In February, however, the Civil Coordinator, representing 300 organizations, said that the budget sent to the National Assembly and the version sent to the IMF differed by $650 million and that sum was spent paying the internal debt rather than reducing poverty. In September the government of the North Atlantic Autonomous Region—one of the poorest regions in the country—declared a state of emergency following torrential rains that killed 24 persons in July.

      In February the soldiers who had been sent to Iraq returned. Under pressure from the U.S., President Bolaños ordered the destruction of all surface-to-air missiles, and by December about half of them had been destroyed. Four police officers were killed and one was seriously injured in May during a raid of a police station in Bluefields; the attack was blamed on drug traffickers and organized crime. A free-trade agreement between Central America and the U.S. was signed in Washington in May and presented to the National Assembly in November.

Nadine Jubb

▪ 2004

Area:
130,373 sq km (50,337 sq mi)
Population
(2003 est.): 5,482,000
Capital:
Managua
Head of state and government:
President Enrique Bolaños Geyer

      Former president Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo—who had been under house arrest in Nicaragua since December 2002 awaiting trial for corruption—was transferred to prison in August 2003. In December he received a 20-year prison sentence and a $17 million fine. His former tax director, Byron Jerez, was convicted in June and sentenced to eight years in jail for having fraudulently diverted state funds. Pres. Enrique Bolaños's anticorruption campaign stalled, and in May he broke with pro-Alemán “Arnoldistas” dominating the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) and joined a new coalition of small non-Arnoldista Liberal parties, the Movement of Liberal Unity (MUL).

      In January the Supreme Electoral Council restored legal status to 26 parties after the Supreme Court had overturned portions of the 2000 electoral reforms forged by the Sandinista Front (FSLN) and the PLC that disadvantaged other parties. In June the legislature, in partisan voting to fill 9 openings on the 16-member Supreme Court, elected 4 members each from the FSLN and the PLC-Arnoldista parties; both parties agreed on the remaining member. In the July 19 commemoration of the Sandinista revolution, FSLN leader Daniel Ortega Saavedra publicly apologized for government tensions with the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy in the 1980s.

      Low coffee prices kept per capita economic growth negative. In July 5,000 unemployed coffee workers marched from Matagalpa to Managua in protest against government failure to fulfill September 2002 accords promising assistance. Implementation of a December 2002 three-year, $1.1 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan agreement sparked protests against privatization of communication and hydroelectric enterprises as well as user fees for education. Budget battles jeopardized compliance with IMF terms, but fiscal reforms kept Nicaragua eligible for foreign-debt forgiveness.

      U.S.–Central American Free Trade Agreement negotiations were successfully concluded with the signing of a pact in December. President Bolaños visited the White House in February after Nicaragua had expressed strong support in the United Nations for military action in Iraq, and Nicaragua contributed troops to the U.S.-led occupation despite heavy public opposition. Nicaragua asked the International Court of Justice in April to rule on a maritime rights conflict with Colombia over the San Andrés archipelago and nearby keys. In May four American firms received concessions for oil exploration off the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.The National Assembly unanimously approved legislation in July codifying the 1987 Autonomy Law for the Caribbean region.

Richard Stahler-Sholk

▪ 2003

Area:
130,373 sq km (50,337 sq mi)
Population
(2002 est.): 5,024,000
Capital:
Managua
Head of state and government:
Presidents Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo and, from January 10, Enrique Bolaños Geyer

      Nicaraguan Pres. Enrique Bolaños Geyer, inaugurated in January 2002 after promising a “New Era,” asked the legislature to strip former president Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo's immunity to prosecute him for having allegedly stolen $100 million from the public treasury and laundered it through domestic and foreign accounts. This followed arrests of officials who had profited from bank collapses costing the government $300 million and of Byron Jerez, head of the country's revenue department. The prosecutions represented a political showdown between Bolaños and Alemán for control of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party. In September the National Assembly removed Alemán from its presidency; in December they voted 47–45 to remove his immunity, and he was placed under house arrest in anticipation of criminal prosecution.

      Per capita income, second lowest in the hemisphere, fell for the second consecutive year, ending the modest recovery (1994–2000) that followed the end of the Contra insurgency against the Sandinista government. The recovery had been fueled by foreign aid, debt forgiveness, and family remittances from Nicaraguans abroad. Adverse weather and collapsed world coffee prices crippled the agricultural sector, spurring protests by coffee growers demanding support. With 11% official unemployment and 36% underemployment, the government was squeezed between popular protests and International Monetary Fund demands for fiscal austerity.

      Continuing Nicaragua's embrace of world markets since the 1990 Sandinista electoral defeat, President Bolaños opened bidding for exploration of newfound oil and natural gas deposits. The legislature approved concessions for a $2.6 billion, 40-year “dry canal” involving high-speed railroads, an oil pipeline, and two deepwater ports. These initiatives were opposed by Atlantic coast indigenous and community groups concerned about environmental impact, land speculation, and violation of regional rights under the 1987 Atlantic Coast Autonomy Bill.

      The Sandinista party congress reelected thrice-defeated presidential candidate Daniel Ortega Saavedra as its general secretary, despite party dissidents' demands for democratization. Ortega's stepdaughter asked the Supreme Court to overturn a statute of limitations ruling on her sexual abuse charges against the former president.

Richard Stahler-Sholk

▪ 2002

Area:
130,373 sq km (50,337 sq mi)
Population
(2001 est.): 4,918,000
Capital:
Managua
Head of state and government:
President Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo

      In Nicaragua socioeconomic conditions worsened in 2001 as the world recession, poor commodity prices, administrative malfeasance and incompetence, bank failures, and drought caused economic growth to slow to an estimated 2.1%. Unemployment, poverty and income inequality grew. At midyear starving peasants from the north erected protest encampments along major highways and in Managua. In acknowledgment of the country's dire conditions, the international donor community had finally admitted Nicaragua to the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative in December 2000 and canceled much of its foreign debt. The government was to make fiscal reforms and combat corruption, but medications donated by the international community to the government were soon found being distributed in ruling party campaign offices. The U.S. chose to deliver its food aid through nongovernmental organizations.

      It was also an election year. The 1999 “pact” between Sandinista Daniel Ortega and Constitutionalist Liberal Arnoldo Alemán had resulted in 2000 in the packing of the Supreme Electoral Council. Controlled by partisans, the council rejected all attempts by third parties to compete in the next presidential elections except that of the Conservative Party, whose bid was apparently saved by U.S. pressure. As the unofficial campaign heated up early in 2001, however, with Ortega seven points in the lead, the U.S. successfully pressured the Conservatives to withdraw in order not to split the anti-Sandinista vote.

      Though the Conservatives later named new candidates, the contest narrowed to a tight two-way race. While the Liberal candidate, 73-year-old businessman Enrique Bolaños Geyer, sought to establish his concern for Nicaragua's impoverished majority, erstwhile revolutionary Ortega presented himself as a “new man” able to coexist with practically anyone. Unmoved, the Catholic hierarchy and various American officials—including Secretary of State Colin Powell—made strong anti-Sandinista declarations. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., Washington even drew connections between Ortega and world “terrorism,” and one American official predicted a “vicious” U.S. response should an Ortega government be found to have links to terrorism. On November 4 Bolaños trounced Ortega 56.3–42.3%, while the Conservatives claimed 1.4% of the vote. Hours before the election, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, heading an observer team in Nicaragua, commented: “I personally disapprove of statements or actions by any country . . . to influence the vote . . . in another sovereign nation.” In December, citing that the statute of limitations had run out, a judge dismissed charges of rape brought against Ortega by his stepdaughter.

Thomas W. Walker

▪ 2001

Area:
131,812 sq km (50,893 sq mi)
Population
(2000 est.): 4,813,000
Capital:
Managua
Head of state and government:
President Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo

      Though gross domestic product growth for 2000 was projected at over 5%, income distribution remained very unequal in Nicaragua. High unemployment among the impoverished majority was only partly offset by an estimated $600 million in remittances from relatives living abroad.

      In January members of the opposition Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and the ruling Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) used their majority in the National Assembly to give final passage to constitutional and electoral-law changes implementing a controversial 1999 “pact” between the leaders of those two ostensibly polar-opposite parties. As a result, they packed the Supreme Court, the Office of the Comptroller General (CGR), and the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE). These and other changes protected the personal interests of FSLN leader Daniel Ortega Saavedra and PLC Pres. Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo and made it very difficult for other parties to qualify to compete in upcoming municipal elections. It was also unlikely that Ortega would be held responsible for sexually abusing his stepdaughter, as had been charged, or that Alemán would again face the type of corruption charges brought by a once-independent CGR in 1999. Throughout 2000 flagrant corruption by PLC officeholders went essentially unnoticed by the CGR, and the CSE worked to disqualify apparently legitimate registration efforts by other parties. Though the Conservative Party of Nicaragua (PCN) escaped these maneuvers—reportedly at U.S. insistence—Pedro Solorzano, its popular candidate for mayor of Managua, was disqualified through targeted redistricting.

      Reaction to the pact and corruption was strong. Ortega and Alemán scored poorly in opinion polls, and the international donor community admonished the government and refused to grant Nicaragua preferential debt-repayment status under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative for which it was otherwise qualified.

      A significant drop in voter participation in the November 5 municipal elections reflected citizen disillusionment. Though FSLN victories in Managua and many other important cities demonstrated the surprising endurance of the party, poor PLC showings and PCN victories in Granada and other localities signaled a desire for change.

Thomas W. Walker

▪ 2000

Area:
131,812 sq km (50,893 sq mi)
Population
(1999 est.): 4,923,000
Capital:
Managua
Head of state and government:
President Arnoldo Alemán

      Nicaragua in 1999 was still reeling from Hurricane Mitch. With its economy already devastated by two wars (1978–79, 1981–90) and increasingly corrupt and incompetent governments, the country then had to cope with 4,000 dead or missing persons, 700,000 others who had been displaced, and $1.5 billion in damages caused by the hurricane that struck in October 1998. After eight years of downsizing mandated by the International Monetary Fund, Nicaragua's social service infrastructure was inadequate to deal with such disaster.

      Mitch also affected politics. Surprisingly slow in declaring a national disaster, the Alemán administration tried to channel domestic and international relief either through local governments where Alemán's Liberal supporters were in power or through Liberal organizations where they were not. The administration also tried to tax and control private international relief aid but was dissuaded by domestic and international criticism.

      Public confidence in Alemán was further eroded by charges of corruption. Throughout 1999 Comptroller General Agustín Jarquín leveled charges of personal corruption against the president. Although Alemán countercharged and eventually arrested his respected adversary, opinion polls indicated that most Nicaraguans saw their government as unprecedentedly corrupt.

      The other major party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), was also floundering. Tarnished in 1998 by charges of sexual abuse of a stepdaughter, FSLN leader Daniel Ortega failed to respond to widespread calls that he step down and make way for a new leadership.

      With polls showing support for the two major parties at lows of 20% each, archrivals Alemán and Ortega further offended the public by making a pact to protect their economic and partisan interests. By utilizing a working majority in the legislature, they packed the office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, the Supreme Electoral Council, the Supreme Court, and the office of the comptroller general with their supporters and altered electoral laws to make it more difficult for smaller parties to challenge the two major ones.

      Nicaragua's ranking on the UN Development Program's Human Development Index, which measures citizens' health, educational opportunities, and wealth, had dropped from 85th when the Sandanistas left office in 1990 and 117th at Alemán's inauguration in 1997 to 126th in 1999.

Thomas W. Walker

▪ 1999

      Area: 131,812 sq km (50,893 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 4,763,000

      Capital: Managua

      Head of state and government: President Arnoldo Alemán

      The weather was the most important topic in Nicaragua in 1998. Early in the year the El Niño phenomenon caused serious drought in the north, with some 50,000 families affected by hunger. The World Food Programme launched a US $3.2 million emergency aid scheme in May. The drought also led to the loss through fire of large areas of tropical forest. On June 5 Pres. Arnoldo Alemán set up a forestry-development fund.

      A greater disaster struck in late October, however, in the form of two weeks of heavy rains that accompanied Hurricane Mitch, rated by some as the worst storm in the Atlantic basin in 200 years. Mitch hit Honduras hardest, but Nicaragua reported more damage than it suffered in the 1972 Managua earthquake. There were 1,845 confirmed deaths by the end of the year, with perhaps half a million homeless. Some 250 mm (10 in) of rain fell, causing large-scale flooding and mud slides. The crater lake on Casita volcano was breached on October 30, covering several villages in deep mud. The infrastructure of the country was badly damaged. Early estimates were that 30% of the coffee crop was destroyed. International relief was quick in coming, although distribution locally was often sluggish.

      Divisions within the opposition Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) were sharpened by the accusations made in March 1998 by Zoilamérica Narváez Murillo, FSLN leader Daniel Ortega's stepdaughter, that she was sexually abused and raped by him in her youth. Reflecting support inside and outside the party, Ortega was overwhelmingly reelected secretary-general in May. His wife, Rosario Murillo, and Narváez's brother rejected the charges, which a criminal court dismissed on a technicality. Narváez, herself a Sandinista member, was backed by a dissident faction, led by Henry Petrie, which was expelled from the FSLN over the issue.

      In March the International Monetary Fund (IMF) authorized a $136 million enhanced structural-adjustment facility for the country. The IMF, however, requested further reforms in the tax and social security systems and in public administration. Under IMF terms Nicaragua was to sell parts of the state telecommunications company, Enitel, in 1999. The proceeds would be directed toward foreign reserves, infrastructure investment, and housing.

      Poor relations between Nicaragua and Costa Rica persisted in 1998 as an estimated 350,000-700,000 Nicaraguans, a large percentage of them illegal immigrants, strained the Costa Rican social security system. Additional tensions arising from contested fishing grounds and sovereignty rights on the Río San Juan led Costa Rica to tighten its immigration procedures, expelling Nicaraguans at a higher rate than in previous years. At the same time, Nicaragua's disagreement with Honduras over territorial waters in the Gulf of Fonseca, on the Pacific side of the isthmus, and in the Caribbean Sea remained unresolved, with continuing allegations that Honduran boats were fishing Nicaraguan waters.

BEN BOX

▪ 1998

      Area: 131,812 sq km (50,893 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 4,632,000

      Capital: Managua

      Head of state and government: Presidents Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and, from January 10, Arnoldo Alemán

      On Jan. 10, 1997, Arnoldo Alemán, the candidate of a coalition of right-wing parties, was sworn in as president of Nicaragua, having won the election held on Oct. 20, 1996. The leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front boycotted the inauguration in protest against a Supreme Court ruling that 80 laws passed by the outgoing Sandinista-dominated National Assembly after Nov. 22, 1996, were illegal.

      The new president promised to create 500,000 jobs during his five-year term. Savings and investment were to be promoted, accompanied by government honesty and discipline. Tourism was identified for expansion, targeted to be the biggest foreign exchange earner by 2002. Nine new hotels were authorized to be built, and a target of $80 million was set for tourism revenues in 1997, up from $58 million in 1996. On March 31 the government-owned telecommunications company, Empresa Nicaragüense de Telecomunicaciones, was auctioned; 80% of the money raised was to be used to compensate people whose property had been confiscated by the Sandinistas, and 20% would be spent on housing and infrastructure.

      A relief plan for the rural debt problem, estimated at $150 million, was announced in February. Debtors would be allowed to clear their debts immediately and escape interest and penalties or have their debt cut by half and repay it over 10 years with interest.

      Talks between the government and the Sandinistas were held intermittently during the year. The government convened a "national dialogue," made up of 45 organizations, including political parties and groups from the private sector. The dialogue was undermined, however, when it was revealed that the government and the Sandinistas had reached a secret agreement on compensation for properties expropriated under the Sandinista government. There were 1,293 foreign claims unresolved for restitution or compensation. The U.S. granted Nicaragua another year to sort out property rights involving U.S. citizens and thereby postponed a threatened suspension of U.S. aid.

SARAH CAMERON
      This article updates Nicaragua, history of (Nicaragua).

▪ 1997

      A republic of Central America, Nicaragua has coastlines on the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Area: 131,812 sq km (50,893 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 4,272,000. Cap.: Managua. Monetary unit: córdoba oro, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a central bank rate of 8.68 córdobas oro to U.S. $1 (13.67 córdobas oro = £1 sterling). President in 1996, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.

      Presidential elections were held on Oct. 20, 1996, and were won by Arnoldo Alemán of the right-wing Liberal Alliance, a former mayor of Managua. With two-thirds of the votes counted, he had received 48% of the vote and thereby exceeded the 45% needed to avoid a second round. The results were disputed by his nearest rival, a former president, Daniel Ortega Saavedra of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, who won 39%. He alleged irregularities and refused to concede defeat, although international observers declared the elections free and fair.

      Three candidates had previously been disqualified by the Supreme Electoral Council: Alvaro Robelo and Eden Pastora were barred because they had taken a foreign nationality, while Antonio Lacayo, the son-in-law of Pres. Violeta Chamorro, was ruled out because of an antinepotism clause in the constitution. Twenty candidates representing 30 political parties contested the presidency, although Alemán and Ortega were always in the lead. The Sandinistas attempted to present a moderate left-wing image. In September they changed their controversial anthem, which referred to "the Yankee as the enemy of humanity," and adopted Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" instead. After the election Alemán called on all parties to participate in a national government. (SARAH CAMERON)

      This article updates Nicaragua, history of (Nicaragua).

▪ 1996

      A republic of Central America, Nicaragua has coastlines on the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Area: 131,670 sq km (50,838 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 4,340,000. Cap.: Managua. Monetary unit: córdoba oro, with (Oct. 6, 1995) an official rate of 7.75 córdobas oro to U.S. $1 (12.25 córdobas oro = £1 sterling). President in 1995, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.

      Constitutional reform dominated politics in 1995. On February 7 the National Assembly sent Pres. Violeta Barrios de Chamorro a partial reform bill for her signature. Many of the 67 reforms were generally accepted, such as the change in the name of the army, the prohibition of obligatory military service, and guarantees of private property rights. However, there were others that radically altered the balance of power from the executive to the legislature, such as the right to levy taxes, and President Chamorro and her government strongly objected to many of these. Despite a deadline of 15 days for acting on the bill, she refused to sign and publish it, requesting further negotiation. The National Assembly unilaterally published the reforms on February 24 and began to implement them. One of these concerned the Supreme Court of Justice, which was to be expanded from 9 to 12 members. The National Assembly elected the three new judges, but the president refused to recognize them.

      On June 15, after several rounds of negotiations, the president and representatives of the National Assembly signed a political accord to help solve the constitutional crisis. The pact required that a framework law to implement constitutional reforms be passed by a 60% majority in the Assembly before President Chamorro would sign the reforms, and this duly occurred on July 4. The National Assembly then reaffirmed its selection of judges for the Supreme Court of Justice, and a new Supreme Electoral Tribunal was also sworn in. The Nepotism Law was postponed until 1996. This would have prevented the president's close relations from serving in the Cabinet or running for president. President Chamorro's son-in-law, Antonio Lacayo, was therefore able to remain in the government, although he announced his intention to resign anyway in order to campaign for the presidency in the November 1996 elections.

      The government reaffirmed its commitment to the International Monetary Fund's Economic Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) while renegotiating its debt to the Paris Club of creditor nations. The terms of the ESAF included the controversial privatization of the telephone company, TELCOR, which was stalled by the constitutional crisis. (SARAH CAMERON)

      This updates the article Nicaragua, history of (Nicaragua).

▪ 1995

      A republic of Central America, Nicaragua has coastlines on the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Area: 131,670 sq km (50,838 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 4,210,000. Cap.: Managua. Monetary unit: córdoba oro, with (Oct. 7, 1994) an official rate of 6.74 córdobas oro to U.S. $1 (10.71 córdobas oro = £1 sterling). President in 1994, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.

      The National Opposition Union (UNO) decided in January 1994 to end its 12-month boycott of the National Assembly after it was unable to mobilize support for a constituent assembly. Only 6 of the 14 parties that had formed UNO for the 1990 elections remained in the coalition. The others had joined with the Sandinista National Liberation Front to ensure passage of new laws.

      In February a truce was negotiated with the rebels in the north known as the Northern Front 3-80. A disarmament accord that included their incorporation into the national police was signed. Violence continued in the countryside, where roving gangs of criminals competed with small groups of guerrillas, and the army launched a new offensive against all armed groups in the north in June.

      Gen. Humberto Ortega confirmed in April that he would retire following approval of a new military code, and in August the National Assembly approved the Military Code of Organization, Jurisdiction, and Pension. The code aimed to depoliticize the Sandinista Popular Army and increase its accountability to civilian authority, but critics pointed to the lack of provision for a civilian defense minister and the appointment of the armed forces chief by a military council as evidence that the military was retaining its power.

      The government signed a three-year agreement with the International Monetary Fund in April, releasing funds from other multilateral sources and paving the way for the renegotiation of official debt. Total external debt was estimated at $10 billion, which the country was unable to service. Unemployment was estimated at 43-60%, and per capita gross domestic product fell for the 11th consecutive year. A severe drought damaged the corn and bean crops, and food became scarce. (SARAH CAMERON)

      This updates the article Nicaragua, history of (Nicaragua).

▪ 1994

      A republic of Central America, Nicaragua has coastlines on the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Area: 131,779 sq km (50,880 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 4,265,000. Cap.: Managua. Monetary unit: córdoba oro, with (Oct. 4, 1993) an official rate of 6.17 córdobas oro to U.S. $1 (9.35 córdobas oro = £1 sterling). President in 1993, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.

      Pres. Violeta Chamorro found her tenure increasingly threatened in 1993. Bands of contras and Sandinistas, which had been fighting intermittently since 1991, became more active. In May, President Chamorro decreed a 30-day suspension of constitutional guarantees in the north and central departments. On July 21 a group called the Revolutionary Workers and Campesinos Front (FROC), mostly former members of the Sandinista army but also including some contras, attacked and held Estelí for a day, killing 45 people and wounding 100. Another group, the 3-80 Front, said that it would not disarm until the government dismissed Gen. Humberto Ortega, chief of the armed forces since 1979, and restructured the National Assembly.

      A new crisis broke on August 19 when a delegation to Quilalí, including two Sandinista deputies, was taken hostage by the 3-80 Front, which demanded the dismissal of General Ortega and of the minister of the presidency, Antonio Lacayo. In retaliation, on August 20 the National Dignity Command took over the headquarters of the National Opposition Union (UNO) coalition in Managua and captured party leaders, including Vice Pres. Virgilio Godoy. An agreement was then negotiated between representatives of the government, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), and UNO for the simultaneous release of all hostages. Over the next few days, groups were released, the last on August 25. President Chamorro subsequently announced that General Ortega would be replaced as army chief in 1994.

      On September 20 the National Transport Commission, representing private bus owners and truck and taxi drivers, began a nationwide strike to protest against gasoline price increases and a new tax on vehicle ownership. Two people were killed and several injured as police tried to dislodge armed strikers blocking traffic in Managua. On September 22 the government agreed to suspend the taxes temporarily, paving the way for negotiations with the strikers.

      (SARAH CAMERON)

      This updates the article Nicaragua, history of (Nicaragua).

* * *

Introduction
Nicaragua, flag of   country of Central America. It is the largest of the Central American republics. Nicaragua can be characterized by its agricultural economy, its history of autocratic government, and its imbalance of regional development—almost all settlement and economic activity are concentrated in the western half of the country. The country's name is derived from Nicarao, chief of the indigenous tribe that lived around present-day Lake Nicaragua (Nicaragua, Lake) during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Nicaragua has a unique history in that it was the only country in Latin America to be colonized by both the Spanish and the British. Nicaragua's population is made up mostly of mestizos (mestizo) (people of mixed European and Indian ancestry). The national capital is Managua, which also is the country's largest city and home to about one-fifth of the population.

      The family of Anastasio Somoza García (Somoza, Anastasio) dominated Nicaragua from 1936 to 1979, when it was toppled by an insurrection led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Sandinista) (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional; FSLN). The land, economic, and educational reforms initiated by the socialist-oriented Sandinista regime were negated when it became embroiled in guerrilla warfare with a U.S.-backed insurgency beginning in the early 1980s. The Sandinista-dominated government was finally defeated by the U.S.-funded National Opposition Union, a coalition of parties, in the 1990 presidential elections. The election results, which were deemed free and fair by the international community, signaled an end to the armed conflict in Nicaragua. The Sandinistas returned to power after winning a national election in 2006 but promised to uphold many of the economic reforms of their predecessors.

      Present-day Nicaragua is still recovering from its legacy of dictatorship and civil war. There are ongoing disputes over land ownership, and Nicaragua continues to be dependent on foreign aid, mainly from the United States. Moreover, the country's infrastructure was severely damaged in 1998 by Hurricane Mitch, which killed more than 1,800 Nicaraguans and destroyed several villages. On the other hand, the country has been home to many prominent artists, writers, and intellectuals, and it began to attract a significant income from tourism in the early 21st century.

Land (Nicaragua)
 Nicaragua is bounded by Honduras to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the east, Costa Rica to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Relief
      The western half of Nicaragua is made up generally of valleys separated by low but rugged mountains and many volcanoes. This intricately dissected region includes the Cordillera Entre Ríos, on the Honduras border; the Cordilleras Isabelia and Dariense, in the north-central area; and the Huapí, Amerrique, and Yolaina mountains, in the southeast. The mountains are highest in the north, and Mogotón Peak (6,900 feet [2,103 metres]), in the Cordillera Entre Ríos, is the highest point in the country.

 To the west and south of the central mountain core is a string of 40 volcanoes (volcano)—some of which are active—that stretches northwest-southeast along the Pacific coast. These volcanoes are surrounded by low plains extending from the Gulf of Fonseca (Fonseca, Gulf of) in the north to the Bay of Salinas in the south and are separated from the mountains by the great basin that contains Lakes Nicaragua (Nicaragua, Lake), Managua (Managua, Lake), and Masaya. They are divided into two groups: the Cordillera de los Marrabios in the north and the Pueblos Mesas in the south. The highest volcanoes include San Cristóbal (5,840 feet [1,780 metres]), Concepción (Concepción Volcano) (5,282 feet [1,610 metres]), and Momotombo (4,199 feet [1,280 metres]).

      The eastern half of Nicaragua has low, level plains. Among the widest Caribbean lowlands in Central America, these plains average 60 miles (100 km) in width. The coastline is broken by river mouths and deltas and large coastal lagoons as well as by the coral reefs, islands, cays, and banks that dot Nicaragua's continental shelf—the widest in Central America.

Drainage
      The central mountains form the country's main watershed. The rivers that flow to the west empty into the Pacific Ocean or Lakes Managua and Nicaragua. They are short and carry a small volume of water; the most important are the Negro (Negro River) and Estero Real rivers, which empty into the Gulf of Fonseca, and the Tamarindo River, which flows into the Pacific.

      The eastern rivers are of greater length. The 485-mile- (780-km-) long Coco River flows for 295 miles (475 km) along the Nicaragua-Honduras border and empties into the Caribbean on the extreme northern coast. The Río Grande de Matagalpa flows for 267 miles (430 km) from the Cordillera Dariense eastward across the lowlands to empty into the Caribbean north of Pearl Lagoon on the central coast. In the extreme south the San Juan River flows for 124 miles (200 km) from Lake Nicaragua into the Caribbean in the northern corner of Costa Rica. Other rivers of the Caribbean watershed include the 158-mile- (254-km-) long Prinzapolka River, the 55-mile- (89-km-) long Escondido River, the 60-mile- (97-km-) long Indio River, and the 37-mile- (60-km-) long Maíz River.

      The west is a region of lakes. Lake Nicaragua (Nicaragua, Lake), with an area of 3,149 square miles (8,157 square km), is the largest lake in Central America. Located in the southern isthmus, the lake and its distributary, the San Juan River, have long been discussed as a possible canal route between the Caribbean and the Pacific.

      There are six freshwater lakes near the city of Managua. They include Lake Managua (Managua, Lake), which covers an area of 400 square miles (1,035 square km), Lake Asososca, which acts as the city's reservoir of drinking water, and Lake Jiloá, which is slightly alkaline and is a favourite bathing resort. Lake Masaya is prized for its swimming and fishing facilities; the sulfurous waters of Lake Nejapa have medicinal properties ascribed to them; and Lake Tiscapa is located in the capital city.

      Other lakes in the Pacific watershed include Lake Apoyo, near Lake Masaya; Lake Apoyeque, picturesquely located between two peaks on Chiltepe Point, which juts into Lake Managua; and the artificial Lake Apanás (Apanás, Lake) on the Tuma River, which generates much of the electricity consumed in the Pacific zone.

Soils
      Soils on the Caribbean coast are varied and include fertile alluvial types along waterways and relatively infertile types in the pine-savanna and rainforest regions. On the Pacific coast the soil is volcanic, and about four-fifths of its area is fertile.

Climate
      The climate is slightly cooler and much wetter in the east than in the west. The Pacific side is characterized by a rainy season from May to November and a dry season from December to April. The annual average temperature there is in the low 80s °F (about 27 °C), and annual precipitation averages 75 inches (1,905 mm). On the Caribbean side of the country, the rainy season lasts for about nine months of the year, and a dry season extends from March through May. The annual average temperature is about the same as on the Pacific side, but annual precipitation averages almost 150 inches (3,810 mm). In the northern mountains temperatures are cooler and average about 64 °F (18 °C). Prevailing winds are from the northeast and are cool on the high plateau and warm and humid in the lowlands.

Plant and animal life
      Although Nicaragua's forests suffer from poorly regulated commercial exploitation and the increasing human footprint of the country's burgeoning population, they are still the largest in Central America. Covering more than one-third of the country, they vary considerably in terms of elevation and rainfall. Nicaragua's forests contain valuable cedar, mahogany, and pine timber as well as quebracho (axbreaker), guaiacum (a type of ironwood), guapinol (which yields resin), and medlar (which produces a crab-apple-like fruit).

      Although rapidly being depleted, Nicaragua's fauna includes mammals such as pumas, jaguars, ocelots, margays, various monkeys, deer, and peccaries; birds range from eagles to egrets to macaws to pelicans; reptiles include crocodiles, snakes, turtles, and lizards; and a variety of toads, frogs, fishes, mollusks, and insects are also found. Fauna, like the flora, varies considerably from one ecosystem to another.

People

Ethnic groups
      More than three-fifths of Nicaraguans (Nicaragua) are mestizos (mestizo), persons of mixed European and Indian (Central American and northern Andean Indian) ancestry. African and European descendants together account for about one-fifth of the population. Indians constitute less than 5 percent of the population. The Indian groups are split into two regions: the west coast has a small number of Monimbó and Subtiava groups, as well as the Matagalpa (whose language is extinct), who live in the west-central city of the same name, while the Miskito, Sumo, and Rama reside on the east coast. Also living in the eastern region are the Garifuna (formerly called Black Caribs), who are descendants of the Carib people and Africans exiled from British colonies in the eastern Caribbean (Lesser Antilles) in the 18th century, and Creoles, English-speaking blacks mainly from Jamaica. Spanish-speaking mestizos constitute the largest single group on the east coast, however.

Languages
      The vast majority of Nicaraguans speak Spanish. It is the sole official language in all but the east coast regions where, under the 1987 constitution and the Atlantic Coast Autonomy Law enacted the same year, Miskito, Sumo, Rama, and Creole English have equal status with Spanish. On the west coast, Indian languages have disappeared, even though their influence remains in place-names and many nouns in Nicaraguan Spanish.

Religion
      There is no official religion in Nicaragua, but about three-fifths of Nicaraguans adhere to Roman Catholicism. Since the 1980s Evangelical Protestantism has grown considerably, particularly among the poor, and it is the religion of about one-fifth of the population. There are small Moravian (Moravian church) and Anglican (Anglican religious community) communities on the Caribbean coast. A very small Jewish community exists in larger cities.

Settlement patterns
      The western volcanic mountains and surrounding lowlands and lakes contain the majority of the country's population, most of its cities, and the bulk of its industry. The valleys of the western central mountains contain a substantial population. In the second half of the 20th century, many former inhabitants of the western region migrated to the large but sparsely populated eastern region to farm, raise cattle, or exploit timber resources. The area remains an agricultural centre, though some light industry has emerged.

      Slightly more than half of Nicaragua's population is urban. By far the largest city is Managua, on the southeastern shore of Lake Managua. Other important urban centres include León, Granada, Masaya, and Chinandega, all in the west. Matalgalpa, Estelí, Juigalpa, and Jinotega are among the largest cities of the central mountains. Bluefields and Puerto Cabezas (Bilwi) are the largest towns on the Caribbean coast.

Demographic trends
      Despite the loss of nearly 30,000 people who were killed in the country's civil war, and the hundreds of thousands who took refuge abroad, Nicaragua's population increased from 2.5 million to nearly 4 million during Sandinista rule (1979–90). Declining infant mortality and a wartime “baby boom” are possible explanations. The war also spurred internal migration and a rapid expansion of cities. These factors, along with high fertility rates, have left the country with a young population. At the beginning of the 21st century, nearly two-fifths of the population was under age 15. Moreover, a restrictive abortion policy adopted in the mid-2000s, which outlawed the procedure even in cases of rape or a life-threatening pregnancy, was expected to further increase the population.

Economy
      Nicaragua is one of Latin America's poorest countries and suffers from high unemployment rates and a large external debt. Remittances from Nicaraguans living abroad and foreign assistance are the country's main sources of foreign income, though income from tourism has increased since the 1990s. The majority of Nicaraguans live in poverty.

      During the 1980s the cost inflicted by the revolution that overthrew the Somoza dictatorship and by the defense against counterrevolution worsened the country's plight. The Sandinista policy of developing a mixed economy (about 60 percent private and 40 percent public) resulted in growth from 1980 through 1983; however, public spending on many state enterprises combined with continued price controls and subsidies led to economic problems. A trade embargo declared on Nicaragua by the United States in 1985, along with economic mismanagement by the Sandinista government, brought about economic decline, service shortages, war-driven inflation, and a growing foreign debt that lasted throughout the decade. In the late 1980s the Sandinistas implemented an austerity program featuring some privatization and sharp reductions in public employment.

      The post-Sandinista government sought to remove most state control of the economy and accentuated austerity policies introduced by the Sandinistas. Privatization was accelerated, and government spending aimed at the country's poor majority was curtailed. By the end of the century, with renewed U.S. assistance and aid from international lending agencies, inflation had been brought under control and minor growth was being achieved. However, the government's implementation of austerity and structural-adjustment programs reduced or eliminated most government welfare and led to further impoverishment of the country's poorest citizens.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
      Agriculture, forestry, and fishing engage as much as one-third of the labour force and produce about one-fifth of the total national income. The valleys of the western central mountains yield about one-fourth of the national agricultural production. Major crops for domestic consumption include corn (maize), beans, rice, sorghum, plantains, and cassava (manioc). Various fruits and vegetables also are produced for local consumption.

      Cattle are significant as a source of hides, meat, and dairy products in the west and of meat in the east. The cattle industry grew rapidly after World War II until the late 1970s, when internal conflicts and government policy prompted many ranchers to reduce their herds or move them to neighbouring countries. Other livestock include goats, hogs, horses, and sheep.

      Much of Nicaragua's forests have been cleared for ranching and farming, and income from the sale of timber has helped repay outstanding international loans. Since 2000 reforestation programs have attempted to replace the forest cover that had been exploited through illegal logging operations.

      Shrimping is the most important marine activity. Almost all of the shrimp, caught in both the Pacific and the Caribbean, are exported; lobsters also are exported in moderate quantities. Nicaragua's fish resources, however, are relatively unexploited because of lack of investment, and marine fishing remains largely a subsistence activity.

Resources and power
      Nicaragua is rich in natural resources, most of which have not been exploited on a large scale because of lack of financing. Mineral resources include known deposits of gold, silver, zinc, copper, iron ore, lead, and gypsum. Of these minerals, only gold has been mined intensively. Nicaragua has traditionally used petroleum sources (mostly imported) for its energy production needs. Since 2000 the government has passed various energy laws requiring the participation of the private sector in the generation and distribution of electricity and promoting the development of hydroelectric and geothermal plants (geothermal energy), which together accounted for about one-fifth of energy generation in the early 21st century. In fact, because of its many volcanoes, Nicaragua has the largest geothermal potential in Central America. In addition, some of the country's largest sugar mills have contracts with the government to supply bioelectricity year-round using bagasse during sugarcane season and fuelwood derived from eucalyptus during the off-season. Eucalyptus plantations have been established for this purpose.

Manufacturing
      Nicaragua's manufacturing sector is in an incipient stage of development and is based on the production of consumer products, many of which require the importation of raw materials. Beginning in the late 20th century, the government actively supported the diversification of production and the use of domestic raw materials by establishing maquiladoras (maquiladora) (manufacturing plants that import and assemble duty-free components for export) in free-trade zones and by adopting free-trade agreements. Manufactures include refined petroleum, matches, footwear, soap and vegetable oils, cement, alcoholic beverages, and textiles.

Finance
      The Central Bank of Nicaragua, established in 1961, has the sole right of issue of the national currency, the córdoba. The financial system had been dominated by the government-owned Finance Corporation of Nicaragua, an amalgamation of the country's banks established in 1980, but by the early 21st century, several private banks and microfinance institutions had been established.

Trade
      Traditionally dependent on U.S. markets and products, Nicaragua began trading with a wider group of countries—including Cuba and those of eastern Europe—during the Sandinista period. At no point, however, did commerce with those countries predominate. Indeed, when Nicaragua's major trading partner, the United States, declared an embargo on trade with Nicaragua in 1985, several Western countries sharply increased their imports from Nicaragua. From the 1970s through the mid-1990s, the value of Nicaragua's imports (most notably petroleum, nonferrous minerals, and industrial products) greatly exceeded that of its exports. After 1990 trade with the United States was resumed. At the beginning of the 21st century, Nicaragua's main export products were coffee, beef, sugar, and seafood. About one-third of Nicaraguan exports went to the United States, with smaller proportions going to El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Imports included nondurable consumer goods, mineral fuels, capital goods for industry, and transport equipment. In 2006 Nicaragua formally entered into the Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) with the United States.

Services
      Nicaragua's service sector has grown considerably since the 1990s and employs about one-half of the active labour force. Tourism has become one of the country's leading industries. Tourists are drawn to the country's Atlantic and Pacific beaches, as well as to its volcanoes, lakes, and cultural life. Especially of note are the hundreds of islands in Lake Nicaragua; the largest and most visited is Ometepe, which was formed by two volcanoes. The second largest island, Zapatera, has many archaeological sites and petroglyphs from pre-Columbian cultures. León, one of Nicaragua's oldest cities, retains its colonial architecture, and nearby León Viejo (World Heritage site), one of the oldest Spanish colonial settlements in the Americas, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000.

Labour and taxation
      There are various active labour unions in Nicaragua, which have been generally divided under Sandinista and anti-Sandinista umbrella groups. The Nicaraguan Workers' Central is an independent labour union.

      Most Nicaraguan women work in the informal sector, which includes domestic labour and subsistence farming. Women are the most affected by and least protected from poverty. Many of them are the sole breadwinners for their families and cannot provide adequate food or meet other fundamental material needs. Indeed, at the beginning of the 21st century, the gap between Nicaragua's national minimum wage and the cost of living increased, making life more difficult for families from lower-income communities. Government income is largely generated through both corporate and individual income taxes, a value-added tax (VAT), and a capital gains tax.

Transportation and telecommunications
      Most of the country's transportation system is confined to the western zone. There is a network of highways, parts of which are impassable during the rainy season. The system includes the 255-mile (410-km) Nicaraguan section of the Inter-American Highway, which runs through the west from Honduras to Costa Rica. An important road runs from the Inter-American Highway, 24 miles (39 km) from Managua eastward to Port Esperanza at Rama. Another road connects Managua with Puerto Cabezas on the Caribbean. In 1998 Hurricane Mitch destroyed large portions of the country's roads in the Pacific coastal area. While many roads have been rebuilt through international support, subsequent hurricanes have delayed complete reconstruction.

      There are several hundred miles of railways. The main line runs from Granada northwest to Corinto, on the Pacific Ocean. A branch line leads north from León to the coffee area of Carazo.

      The chief ocean port of Corinto, which handles most foreign trade, and Puerto Sandino and San Juan del Sur serve the Pacific coastal area. The Caribbean ports include Puerto Cabezas and Bluefields, the latter connected to the river landing of Port Esperanza by regular small craft service. The short rivers in the west are navigable for small craft. In the east the Coco River is navigable in its lower course for medium-sized vessels.

      The main international airport, 7 miles (11 km) from Managua, has service to North America and Latin America. Another large commercial airport is at Puerto Cabezas. Other airports have scheduled domestic flights. International air service is offered by TACA airlines and several U.S. and other foreign airlines.

      Nicaragua's telecommunications sector is fully privatized. The number of Internet users in the country is lower than that of most other countries in Central America.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
 From 1838, when Nicaragua seceded from the United Provinces of Central America, to 1979, when the long dictatorial reign of the Somoza family came to an end, Nicaragua had nine constitutions. The Somoza (Somoza Debayle, Anastasio) regime was deposed in 1979 by a junta, led by the Sandinistas (Sandinista), which abrogated the old constitution and suspended the presidency, Congress, and the courts. An elected president and unicameral National Assembly replaced the junta and its appointed council in 1985, and a new constitution (the country's 10th since 1838) was promulgated in 1987, with reforms in 1995, 2000, and 2005. The president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and may be reelected after a term out of office. Assembly terms are five years and run concurrently with the presidential term. Power is divided among four governmental branches: executive, legislative, judicial, and electoral. The last mentioned is the Supreme Electoral Council, which is responsible for organizing and holding elections.

Local government
      Nicaragua is divided into regiones (regions), which are subdivided into departamentos (departments). Within the departments are municipios (municipalities) of varying sizes. Citizens of the municipalities directly elect a municipal council, which has basic governing authority and also elects the mayor. The municipal councils are responsible for urban development; land use; sanitation; construction and maintenance of roads, parks, and other public spaces; and cultural institutions within their own municipality. There are two autonomous indigenous regions on the Caribbean coast—the North Atlantic Autonomous Region and the South Atlantic Autonomous Region, whose respective capitals are Puerto Cabezas (Bilwi) and Bluefields.

Justice
      Nicaragua's judicial system includes civilian and military courts. The Supreme Court is the country's highest court. Its justices, who are elected to seven-year terms by the National Assembly, are responsible for nominating judges to the lower courts. Nicaragua's judicial system has received international assistance through judicial reform projects, but it continues to be plagued by inconsistent decisions, trial delays, and politicization.

Political process
      Nicaraguans aged 16 and older have universal suffrage. Nicaraguan politics was historically dominated by a liberal and a conservative party. Leading political parties include the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Constitucionalista; PLC), the Conservative Party of Nicaragua (Partido Conservador de Nicaragua; PCN), and the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Sandinista) (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional; FSLN). The FSLN was established in the early 1960s as a guerrilla group dedicated to the overthrow of the Somoza family. They governed Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990 and again starting in 2006 when Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega (Ortega, Daniel) won in the general elections of that year. Presidential candidates must receive at least 40 percent of the vote or have 35 percent of the vote and be at least 5 percentage points ahead of the closet contender to avoid a run-off election. Members of the National Assembly are elected for five-year terms by a proportional representation system and can be reelected. Two seats in the Assembly are reserved, however—one for the immediate past president and one for the runner-up in the immediate preceding presidential election.

Security
      Nicaragua has a volunteer army, navy, and air force, in which Nicaraguans can enlist as early as age 17. Nicaragua's army historically has been tied to political parties. During Sandinista rule the National Guard, linked to the Somoza family, was replaced with the Sandinista People's Army, which had led the revolution. In 1995 an amendment to the constitution helped stabilize and democratize the army, which was renamed the Army of Nicaragua.

Health and welfare
      After decades of neglect by the Somozas, social programs for the poor became a central concern of the Sandinistas. Health measures were taken that significantly reduced infant mortality and increased life expectancies. Welfare and social security programs were expanded. However, these programs suffered in the late 1980s from the impact of war and a collapsing economy. After 1990 they continued to decline as the conservative government implemented public-sector cutbacks. With international aid, Nicaragua experienced improvements in health care access, and child mortality rates declined in the early 21st century.

Education
      One of the first acts by the Sandinistas following the revolution of 1979 was to declare a “year of literacy,” whereby the government sent out cadres of former guerrilla fighters to teach reading to the largely illiterate rural populace. This literacy crusade reduced adult illiteracy from more than 50 percent to less than 15 percent. Standard education at all levels was also greatly expanded. At the start of the 21st century, about four-fifths of the population was literate, one-fifth of Nicaraguans had no formal schooling, and only a small percentage of the population had a university degree. Nicaragua's oldest universities are the National Autonomous University (1812) and the Central American University (1961). Several other universities were founded in the 1980s and '90s.

Cultural life

Cultural milieu
      Nicaragua has rich cultural traditions that reflect long-standing ethnic cleavages. The western part of the country is culturally similar to other Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America. Its folk traditions are expressed in beautiful arts and crafts (ceramics, textiles, and wood and leather handicrafts), religious ceremonies, and country music (corridos). The eastern part of Nicaragua has a more Afro-Caribbean flavour, similar to other former British colonies in the region.

Daily life and social customs
      As is the case in much of Central America, Nicaraguan social life is centred on family and fictional kinship. Most children are given godparents, who help organize the child's baptism and serve as mentors throughout their childhood. Many social events are tied to the Roman Catholic Church, and each Nicaraguan town or city holds an annual celebration to honour its patron saint. The celebration of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary (referred to locally as La Purísima) is the country's most important holiday, and the nine-day festival includes the building of altars to be placed at the doorways of private homes and the creation of floats to be paraded through town.

      Another tradition in Nicaragua is the annual performance of El Güegüense, a satirical drama that depicts resistance to colonial rule. The spectacular is performed in January during the feast of San Sebastián, patron saint of the city of Diriamba, and combines folk music, dance, and theatre. El Güegüense, whose name derives from the Nahuatl term güegüe (“old one”), was a powerful elder in pre-Columbian Nicaragua who was compliant when in the presence of the colonists but ridiculed them behind their backs. The drama was recognized by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” in 2005.

      Nicaraguan cuisine is a mixture of indigenous and Creole traditions. The country's national dish is gallo pinto (fried rice mixed with black beans and other spices). Corn (maize) is the staple of Nicaraguan gastronomy and is used in many foods, such as nacatamal (cornmeal dough stuffed with meat and cooked in plantain leaves), indio viejo (corn tortilla with meat, onions, garlic, sweet pepper, and tomato and cooked in orange juice and broth), and sopa de albóndiga (meatball soup). The traditional drink known as chicha is made with corn, water, and sugar. Appetizers called rosquillas are made with baked corn dough, cheese, and butter. The Caribbean region has its own traditional dishes, such as rondón (turtle meat, fish, or pork combined with various condiments). A drink found only in this region of the country is gaubal (cooked green banana, milk, coconut water, and sugar).

The arts
      The drama and emotions of the insurrectionary and revolutionary periods from the late 1970s through 1990 produced a flourishing of artistic expression. Masterly work was exemplified in the paintings of Alejandro Canales, Armando Morales, and Leoncio Sáenz and the theatre of Alan Bolt.

      Nicaraguan folk music is popular both locally and throughout Central America and Mexico. Much of this music was made popular by ethnomusicologist and composer Salvador Cardenal Argüello, who traveled throughout the country in the 1930s. Many contemporary Nicaraguan folk artists work from Cardenal's songbook, remaking songs that were popular in the first half of the 20th century. In the 1970s the “New Song movement,” a form of traditional Latin American folk music mixed with political and social commentary, was led by Nicaraguan brothers Luis Enríque Mejía Godoy and Carlos Mejía Godoy, who continued to perform into the 1990s, often with other artists, including Katia Cardenal and guitarist Eduardo Araica. The English-speaking town of Bluefields, on the Caribbean coast, has emerged as a centre of reggae music (reggae). Nicaraguan palo de mayo (“ Maypole dance”) music is also popular in the region and is easily recognized by its incessant rhythm. Inspired by the British, the annual monthlong Maypole festival in Bluefields is an amalgam of European and Afro-Caribbean traditions centred on a decorated maypole; festivities include parades, costumes, music, and dancing.

      Nicaragua prides itself on a long and distinguished literary tradition, which until the late 20th century was familiar within the country only to the educated elite. Among the country's best-known writers are Rubén Darío (Darío, Rubén), known as the “prince of Spanish-American poetry,” Ernesto Cardenal (Cardenal, Ernesto), who established a literary and visual arts centre that has attracted international writers and artists, the novelist Sergio Ramírez, the essayist Omar Cabezas, and the poet Gioconda Belli.

Cultural institutions
      The most notable of the country's institutions are the National Library and the National Museum (both in Managua) and the Rubén Darío museum (in Ciudad Darío). The last is located in Darío's childhood home, which became a national historical site and museum in 1943. The Julio Cortázar Museum of Contemporary Art in Managua opened in 1982. The Tenderí Museum in Masaya displays archaeological artifacts from the Chorotega people, as well as coins and medals from the Spanish colonial era. The Sandinistas established the Museum of the Revolution and the Museum of the Literacy Crusade in Managua, the Sandino Museum in Niquinohomo, and others. These subsequently were abandoned or fell into disarray after the change of government in 1990.

      State-sponsored cultural production has declined sharply since the 1990s, and the country has relied on independent support of cultural activities, which take place predominantly in the capital, Managua. The Somoza regime valued elite (often imported) culture, while the Sandinistas promoted what they termed “democratizing, national, anti-imperialist” art forms, both professional and amateur. A Ministry of Culture was established under Cardenal, and a Sandinista Association of Cultural Workers was created and led by the poet Rosario Murillo, wife of revolutionary and political leader Daniel Ortega. Both organizations built museums, sponsored professional artists, and created popular workshops.

Sports and recreation
      The most popular sport in Nicaragua is baseball, and baseball diamonds can be found throughout the country. Boxing has grown in popularity, largely in response to the success of Nicaraguan fighter Alexis Arguello (Arguello, Alexis). Other preferred sports include football (soccer), weightlifting, and swimming. Chess is another popular pastime. During the Sandinista regime the government made a particular effort to promote sports among women. Nicaragua made its first Olympic appearance in 1968 at the Mexico City Games.

Media and publishing
      Nicaragua boasts a thriving publishing industry. The country has several daily newspapers, all of which have strong political orientations. A bitter foe of both the Somoza and the Sandinista governments, La Prensa (“The Press”) is staunchly conservative. El Nuevo Diario (“The New Daily”) and Barricada (“Barricade”; once the official FSLN organ) are pro-Sandinista. During the Somoza and Sandinista periods, the two existing television stations were both regime-controlled. Sandinista television attempted to diversify its international programming (previously dominated by U.S. offerings) and to increase domestically produced programs. After 1990, although many new channels appeared, much of the air time was dominated once again by U.S. programming. Throughout the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st, there were a variety of radio stations, most of them privately owned.

Rosendo Arguello Bernard Nietschmann Thomas W. Walker Manuel S. Orozco

History

Early history
      This discussion mainly focuses on the history of Nicaragua since the arrival of Columbus in the late 15th century. For treatment of earlier periods and of the country in its regional context, see Central America.

Colonial period (colonialism, Western)
      The Spanish soldier Pedro Arias Dávila (Arias Dávila, Pedro) (known as Pedrarias) led the first expedition to found permanent colonies in what is present-day Nicaragua. In 1519, when Pedrarias became the governor of Panama, he sent kinsman Gil González Dávila to explore northward toward Nicaragua. González Dávila made the first attempt to conquer the region in 1522 but was repulsed by Indians. Pedrarias then dispatched Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, who founded the cities of Granada and León; by 1524 he had established permanent colonization. Jealous of Hernández de Córdoba's success, Pedrarias had him killed and named himself governor of Nicaragua in 1527. Pedrarias served as governor until his death in 1531.

      Overall, the Spanish conquest was a disaster for the indigenous population of Nicaragua's Pacific region. Within three decades an estimated Indian population of one million plummeted to a few tens of thousands, as approximately half the indigenous people died of contagious Old World diseases, and most of the rest were sold into slavery in other New World Spanish colonies. Few were killed in outright warfare.

      After the initial depopulation, Nicaragua became a backwater of the Spanish empire. In this setting, Granada and León emerged as competing poles of power and prestige. The former derived its income from agriculture and trade with Spain via the San Juan River; the latter came to depend on commerce with the Spanish colonies of the Pacific coast. Both tiny outposts were subjected to frequent pirate attacks. Late in the 17th century, Great Britain (England) formed an alliance with the Miskito people of the Caribbean coastal region, where the community of Bluefields had been established. The British settled on the Mosquito Coast, and for a time (1740–86) the region was a British dependency.

Independence
      In 1811, inspired by struggles in Mexico and El Salvador, revolutionaries deposed the governing intendant of Nicaragua. León, however, soon returned to the royalist cause, and Granada bore the brunt of the punishment for disobedience. In 1821 León rejected and Granada approved the Guatemalan declaration of independence from Spain. Both accepted union with Mexico (1822–23), but they fought one another until 1826, when Nicaragua took up its role in the United Provinces of Central America. After Nicaragua seceded from the federation in 1838, the rivalry between León, which identified with the Liberal Party, and Granada, the centre of the Conservative Party, continued.

Foreign intervention
      After the withdrawal of Spain, relations between the “king” of the Mosquito Coast and the British government strengthened until again there were British officials in Bluefields. In 1848 they seized the small Caribbean port of San Juan del Norte, renaming it Greytown. The discovery of gold in California drew attention to the strategic position of Nicaragua for interoceanic traffic, and Cornelius Vanderbilt (Vanderbilt, Cornelius)'s Accessory Transit Company began a steamship and carriage operation between Greytown and the Pacific. In 1856 William Walker (Walker, William), an American who had been invited to assist the Liberals in warfare (1855), made himself president of the country, but he was routed a year later by the efforts of the five Central American republics and the transit company.

      Conservatives ruled from 1857 until 1893, bringing relative peace but little democracy to Nicaragua. As a compromise between Granada and León, Managua was made the capital in 1857. In 1860 a treaty with Great Britain provided for the nominal reincorporation of the east coast with the rest of the country, but as an autonomous reservation. Complete jurisdiction over the Miskito people was not established until the Liberal presidency (1893–1909) of José Santos Zelaya (Zelaya, José Santos).

      Zelaya, though a dictator, was a committed nationalist. He promoted schemes for Central American reunification and refused to grant the United States transisthmian canal-building rights on concessionary terms, thus encouraging the United States to choose Panama for the project. This, plus rumours that Zelaya planned to invite Japan to construct a canal that would have competed with the U.S. waterway, caused the United States to encourage Zelaya's Conservative opposition to stage a revolt. When two U.S. citizens who participated in the revolt were executed, the United States landed marines in Bluefields and thus blocked a Liberal victory. Although Zelaya resigned, the United States refused to recognize his successor, José Madriz (1909–10). Further civil war led to the presidency of a Conservative, Adolfo Díaz (1911–17), on whose behalf the U.S. Marines (United States Marine Corps, The) intervened in 1912. A 100-man guard at the U.S. embassy symbolized that country's support also for Conservative presidents Emiliano Chamorro Vargas (Chamorro Vargas, Emiliano) (1917–21) and his uncle Diego Manuel Chamorro (1921–23). The Bryan-Chamorro Treaty (Bryan–Chamorro Treaty), signed in 1914 and ratified in 1916, gave the United States exclusive canal privileges in Nicaragua (to prevent a competing canal from being built) and the right to establish naval bases.

      The U.S. Marine guard's withdrawal in 1925 led quickly to another crisis, with Chamorro Vargas in rebellion against a new regime. Díaz returned as a compromise president (1926–28), reinforced in 1927 by 2,000 U.S. Marines. Liberal leaders Juan Bautista Sacasa (Sacasa, Juan Bautista), José María Moncada, and Augusto César Sandino (Sandino, César Augusto) rose in rebellion, but after six months Sacasa and Moncada made peace, and subsequent elections under U.S. auspices brought the presidency to both of them (Moncada, 1928–33, and Sacasa, 1933–36). Sandino, however, fought on as long as the Marines remained in the country.

The Somoza years
      The Marines withdrew upon the inauguration of Sacasa, and Sandino submitted to his government. A Nicaraguan National Guard, trained by the U.S. Marines and commanded by Gen. Anastasio Somoza García (Somoza, Anastasio), was now responsible for maintaining order in the country. In 1934 high-ranking officers led by Somoza met and agreed to the assassination of Sandino. Somoza then deposed Sacasa with the support of factions of both Liberals and Conservatives, and in a rigged election he became president on Jan. 1, 1937.

      Somoza (known as Tacho) revised the constitution to facilitate the consolidation of power into his own hands and ruled the country for the next two decades, either as president or as the power behind puppet presidents. Export activities grew from the 1930s onward. However, the Somoza family and their associates, rather than the Nicaraguan people as a whole, were the main beneficiaries of the country's income.

      On Sept. 21, 1956, a day after Somoza's Nationalist Liberal Party of Nicaragua (Partido Liberal Nacionalista de Nicaragua; PLN) had nominated him for another term, a Liberal poet named Rigoberto López Pérez shot the president, who died eight days later. Congress at once gave Luis Somoza Debayle (Somoza Debayle, Luis) his father's position, and in February 1957 he was dubiously elected to his own term (1957–63). Somoza Debayle ruled more gently than his father had. He accepted a settlement in favour of Honduras of a long-standing border dispute between the two countries (1960) and cooperated with the United States in the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba (1961). In 1961 three Marxists, including Carlos Fonseca Amador, founded the guerrilla Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional; FSLN) in opposition to the regime. It was named for Augusto César Sandino, and its members are called Sandinistas (Sandinista).

      Following an essentially uncontested election in 1963, two puppet presidents, René Schick Gutiérrez and, upon his death in 1966, Lorenzo Guerrero Gutiérrez, held office with the support of the Somozas. Although the economy grew, mass poverty remained unchanged. Luis Somoza died early in 1967. Months later his brother Anastasio Somoza Debayle (Somoza Debayle, Anastasio) (“Tachito”) won yet another rigged presidential election against a token opponent, Fernando Agüero Rocha. In 1970 the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty (Bryan–Chamorro Treaty) was abrogated.

      On May 1, 1972, constitutionally ineligible to succeed himself, Somoza relinquished the presidency to a triumvirate (composed of Agüero and two leaders of Somoza's own party). On December 23 an earthquake in the city of Managua left 6,000 persons dead and 300,000 homeless. Somoza (commanding the National Guard) took charge as the head of a National Emergency Committee. Agüero, who protested, found himself replaced (March 1, 1973) on the triumvirate. The population suffered from the destruction as Somoza and his friends profited privately from international aid programs. In March 1974 a new constitution (the country's eighth since 1838) made it possible for Somoza to be reelected president.

      Before the end of the year, two genuine opposition groups attracted wide attention—the Sandinistas (Sandinista) and the organization founded by Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, editor and publisher of La Prensa (“The Press”) of Managua, called the Democratic Union of Liberation (Unión Democrática de Liberación; UDEL). In December 1974 the Sandinistas staged a successful kidnapping of Somoza elites, for which ransom and the release of political prisoners were obtained. In response, the regime embarked on a two-and-a-half-year counterinsurgency effort that, in addition to leading to the death of Carlos Fonseca in 1976, took the lives of thousands of peasant noncombatants. In 1977 a group called Los Doce (The Twelve) sought an anti-Somoza alliance to include UDEL, the Sandinistas, and other organizations. Assassins murdered Pedro Joaquín Chamorro on Jan. 10, 1978, and a general strike and violence followed. On August 22 the Sandinistas occupied the national palace, holding more than 1,000 hostages for two days and winning most of their demands. Although the National Guard regained partial control, the insurrection spread, with another general strike and the Sandinistas seizing and holding several major cities. The uprising was eventually quashed, at the cost of several thousand lives. The following June the FSLN staged its final offensive. City after city fell to the insurgents, backed by tens of thousands of local civilian combatants. On July 17 Somoza resigned and fled the country; two days later the Sandinistas entered Managua and accepted the surrender of what was left of his army, ending the long years of Somoza rule.

Franklin D. Parker Thomas W. Walker

The Sandinista government
      The new government inherited a devastated country. About 500,000 people were homeless, more than 30,000 had been killed, and the economy was in ruins. In July 1979 the Sandinistas appointed a five-member Government Junta of National Reconstruction. The following May it named a 47-member Council of State, which was to act as an interim national assembly. In 1981 the junta was reduced to three members and the council increased to 51.

      In 1979–80 the government expropriated the property held by Anastasio Somoza Debayle, members of his government, and their supporters. Local banks and insurance companies and mineral and forest resources were nationalized, and the import and export of foodstuffs were placed under government control. The Statutes on Rights and Guarantees, which acted as the country's new constitution, ensured basic individual rights and freedoms. The government disclaimed any responsibility for the assassination of Somoza on Sept. 17, 1980, in Asunción.

      The Sandinista revolution represented a hopeful change toward democratization. It attempted to redress the enormous inequality and poverty in the country with a range of programs designed to improve the lives of the poor. Democratization, however, was halted by two key obstacles. First, shortly after taking power, the Sandinista leaders began restricting certain freedoms and confiscating property. Second, the United States interpreted the Sandinista revolution as a possible shift toward communism and suspended economic aid to Nicaragua in the early 1980s. Indeed, the Sandinista government established close relations with Cuba and other Soviet-bloc countries. Throughout the decade the FSLN and the state gradually merged into a single entity that represented the interests of the National Directorate, the FSLN's leadership structure. All political opposition in the country was weakened. Moreover, the Sandinistas created several organizations that were responsible for indoctrinating Nicaraguans into the party's belief system regarding the revolution and for reporting critics of the revolution as “counterrevolutionaries.” Typical of the government's political and ideological reach were Sandinista Defense Committees (Comités de Defensa Sandinista; CDS), which served as the “eyes and ears of the revolution.” In 1981 the administration also enacted the Agrarian Reform Law, which formalized what could be done with Somoza's property. This included the offer of free land titles to peasants and supporters of the state in exchange for government service or for establishing agricultural cooperatives.

      In response to the actions of the Sandinista government, in 1981 U.S. Pres. Ronald Reagan (Reagan, Ronald W.) authorized funds for the recruiting, training, and arming of Nicaraguan counterrevolutionaries, who, like others already organized by the Argentine army, would engage in irregular military operations against the Sandinista regime. These insurgents, who came to be called Contras, established bases in the border areas of Honduras and Costa Rica. The Contra army grew to about 15,000 soldiers by the mid-1980s. Eventually, the Nicaraguan government also expanded its military forces, acquired crucial equipment such as assault helicopters, and implemented counterinsurgency strategy and tactics, which enabled it in the late 1980s to contain and demoralize the Contras but not defeat them.

      On Nov. 4, 1984, the FSLN and its presidential candidate, Daniel Ortega Saavedra (Ortega, Daniel), won 63 percent of the vote in an election that international observer teams deemed fair. Ortega was inaugurated in January 1985, and two years later the new Constituent Assembly produced a constitution that called for regularly held elections, the first for national office to take place in 1990.

      The Reagan administration denounced the 1984 election as a sham, and a U.S. trade embargo on Nicaragua was declared in 1985. The embargo and the damage and economic dislocation brought about by the civil war combined with Sandinista economic errors to cause Nicaragua's economy to plummet from 1985 onward. An annual inflation rate of more than 30,000 percent in 1988 was followed by severe and unpopular austerity measures in 1989. Government programs in health, education, housing, and nutrition were drastically curtailed.

      In 1987, after intense international efforts to end the civil war and bring democracy to the country, a regional peace agreement was signed between the Sandinista government and the Contras, who had stopped receiving military aid from the United States. These events gradually moved the focus of the Nicaraguan conflict from combat to politics.

      The 1990 general elections were held under careful international observation. Contra activity increased during the electoral period. On Feb. 25, 1990, the U.S.-endorsed and U.S.-financed National Opposition Union (Unión Nacional Opositor; UNO) coalition and its presidential candidate, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (Chamorro, Violeta Barrios de), the widow of the martyred newspaper editor, won an upset victory, and a peaceful transfer of administrations took place on April 25.

Nicaragua since 1990
      The Chamorro government reversed many Sandinista policies and overall sought national reconciliation, pacification, and reform of the state. Chamorro negotiated the formal demobilization of the Contras in June 1990 and cut the army from more than 80,000 soldiers to fewer than 15,000. In 1994 she was able to obtain the resignation of Gen. Humberto Ortega, brother of Daniel Ortega and chief of the army during the Sandinista regime. His departure not only signified greater civilian control of the military but also increased its stability. In pursuit of national reconciliation, Chamorro eventually found herself in a tacit legislative coalition with the FSLN and a handful of UNO moderates. The coalition, however, failed to achieve a real rapprochement; instead, the ideological polarization that was inherited from the Somoza dictatorship and the civil war continued between Sandinistas and their opponents. For nearly four years the legislative body remained unstable because of these tensions, which were further manifested in civil disobedience and recurring waves of violence. Disgruntled former Contras (who became known as Recontras) took up arms again, complaining of continued violence by the Sandinista-dominated army and criticizing Chamorro's government for failing to deliver on its promise to redistribute land. Armed civilian Sandinistas, who were known as Recompas, emerged to fight the Recontras.

      The Chamorro government managed to disarm most of these combatants by 1995. The conflicts between the Recompas and the Recontras gradually receded, and several constitutional reforms were adopted that shifted power from the president to the National Assembly, ended conscription, guaranteed private property rights, and prevented close relatives of the president from serving in the cabinet or succeeding the president. Chamorro's administration replaced Sandinista-era textbooks with new ones paid for by the U.S. Agency for International Development. It also reduced the public-sector budget and returned some expropriated property to landowners whose land had been seized by the Sandinista government. Most of the government's promised land reform was not fulfilled, however, because of ongoing conflict over land titles that had been reallocated under the Sandinistas. In agriculture, emphasis was placed on large-scale farming for export rather than on domestic subsistence. Although politically Chamorro was successful, her government's use of austerity and structural-adjustment programs reduced or eliminated most government welfare for Nicaragua's impoverished citizens, which in turn led to an increase in homelessness and crime. Chamorro's administration did, however, guarantee peaceful elections in 1996 and the transfer of power from one civilian government to another.

      Bringing these elections to fruition was a mammoth and tremendously costly task for the Nicaraguan Supreme Electoral Council (CSE). The $50 million administrative bill was paid for largely by foreign donations. Chamorro's government had refused to allocate funds to run the election. Mariano Fiallos, who had headed the CSE since the 1984 election, resigned in early 1996, charging that his job was untenable, given the CSE's lack of funding and electoral law changes that encouraged partisan influences.

      The FSLN and the newly formed right-wing Liberal Alliance (Alianza Liberal; AL), a coalition of three liberal parties, were the main contenders in the 1996 national elections. Daniel Ortega was the FSLN's presidential candidate, and his party campaigned for expanded social services and civil liberties, national unity, and, in contrast to its historical stance, reconciliation with the United States. He lost to the AL's candidate, Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo, a former mayor of Managua and allegedly a sympathizer of former dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle. During Alemán's tenure (1997–2002) Nicaragua's economy enjoyed a modest recovery, fueled by foreign aid, debt forgiveness, and remittances from abroad, but his administration was also beset by charges of corruption, even in the allocation of aid following Hurricane Mitch (1998), which killed several thousand Nicaraguans and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Public confidence in Alemán was further eroded by a legislative pact between the FSLN and Alemán's Constitutionalist Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Constitucionalista; PLC), which allowed the two parties to secure powerful positions and to thwart competition from other political parties in elections.

      In 2001 Ortega lost a second time to PLC's presidential candidate Enrique Bolaños Geyer. Soon after Bolaños's inauguration in January 2002, he called for a “New Era” and for Alemán to be stripped of his immunity so that he could be prosecuted for allegedly having stolen some $100 million. The National Assembly narrowly voted to revoke Alemán's immunity, and he was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The penalty was later changed from prison time to house arrest.

      President Bolaños left the PLC in 2003, and a three-sided political struggle soon broke out between him, his former party, and the FSLN. In 2004 the two parties charged that Bolaños had committed electoral crimes during his presidential campaign. In the same year, the National Assembly (dominated by the PLC and the FSLN) passed reforms that further limited the president's powers. Bolaños vetoed the reforms in April 2005, but Nicaragua's Supreme Court of Justice upheld them that August. After intervention by the Organization of American States (American States, Organization of), the three sides finally agreed that the reforms would not take effect until Bolaños's term ended in January 2007.

      Ortega returned to power after defeating conservative candidate Eduardo Montealegre in the 2006 presidential election. Seeming to have traded the uncompromising Marxism of his past for more-pragmatic politics, Ortega promised to uphold the free-market economic reforms of his predecessors. For its part, the government focused on the difficult task of stamping out official corruption and improving general economic conditions, particularly for poorer Nicaraguans. Nicaragua's formal entrance into the Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) with the United States in 2006 helped Nicaragua to attract investment, create jobs, and promote economic development. In 2007 the country's $1 billion debt with the Inter-American Development Bank was canceled. Nicaragua continued to push for regional stability and peaceful relations with its neighbours. A long-standing maritime dispute with Honduras was settled by the International Court of Justice in 2007, and boundary conflict resolutions with Colombia and Costa Rica were pending.

      In the early 21st century, Nicaragua still faced daunting economic challenges. Large-scale commercial and slash-and-burn agriculture had decimated Nicaragua's forests and left the land vulnerable to landslides and droughts. Unemployment and underemployment remained stubbornly high; the disparity between rich and poor was wide; and per capita income was among the lowest in Latin America. Many Nicaraguans have migrated to Costa Rica, El Salvador, and the United States, and their remittances have been a significant source of income.

Manuel S. Orozco

Additional Reading

Geography
Kent Norsworthy and Tom Barry, Nicaragua: A Country Guide, 2nd ed. (1990), is a good general introduction. Randy Wood and Joshua Berman, Nicaragua, 2nd ed. (2005), is an overall guide. Les W. Field, The Grimace of Macho Ratón: Artisans, Identity, and Nation in Late-Twentieth-Century Western Nicaragua (1999), explores Nicaraguan identity from an anthropological and literary perspective before, during, and after Sandinista rule. Edmund T. Gordon, Disparate Diasporas: Identity and Politics in an African Nicaraguan Community (1998); and Charles R. Hale, Resistance and Contradiction: Miskitu Indians and the Nicaraguan State, 1894–1987 (1994), study the minority ethnic groups of western Nicaragua.

History
General works on Nicaraguan history and politics include John A. Booth, The End and the Beginning: The Nicaraguan Revolution, 2nd ed., rev. and updated (1985); Thomas W. Walker, Nicaragua: The Land of Sandino, 3rd ed., rev. and updated (1991); and Manuel Orozco, International Norms and Mobilization of Democracy: Nicaragua in the World (2002). Karl Bermann, Under the Big Stick: Nicaragua and the United States Since 1848 (1986), provides a solid overview of U.S. involvement in Nicaragua, as does Thomas W. Walker, Nicaragua: Living in the Shadow of the Eagle, 4th ed. (2003). Important historical studies of prerevolutionary Nicaragua include E. Bradford Burns, Patriarch and Folk: The Emergence of Nicaragua, 1798–1858 (1991); Luciano Baracco, Nicaragua: The Imagining of a Nation: From Nineteenth-Century Liberals to Twentieth-Century Sandinistas (2005); Neill Macauley, The Sandino Affair (1967, reprinted 1985); Richard Millett, Guardians of the Dynasty (1977); Knut Walter, The Regime of Anastasio Somoza, 1936–1956 (1993); and Bernard Diederich, Somoza and the Legacy of U.S. Involvement in Central America (1981).There are many books on aspects of the Sandinista period. One comprehensive multidisciplinary overview of the subject is Thomas W. Walker (ed.), Revolution & Counterrevolution in Nicaragua (1991). Within this broad area there are books with more particular topic foci. Donald C. Hodges, Intellectual Foundations of the Nicaraguan Revolution (1986), provides useful insights into the ideological underpinnings of the revolution. Dennis Gilbert, Sandinistas: The Party and the Revolution (1988), gives an informed critique of the Sandinista elite. Three books that examine the general conflict between the United States and the Sandinistas are Robert Kagan, A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977–1990 (1996); Peter Kornbluh, Nicaragua: The Price of Intervention: Reagan's Wars Against the Sandinistas (1987); and Thomas W. Walker (ed.), Reagan Versus the Sandinistas: The Undeclared War on Nicaragua (1987). Specific aspects of that conflict are covered in Bernard Nietschmann, The Unknown War: The Miskito Nation, Nicaragua, and the United States (1989); and William I. Robinson, A Faustian Bargain: U.S. Intervention in the Nicaraguan Elections and American Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War Era (1992). Insight into other aspects of the Sandinista period are provided in Robert F. Arnove, Education and Revolution in Nicaragua (1986); Michael Dodson and Laura Nuzzi O'Shaughnessy, Nicaragua's Other Revolution: Religious Faith and Political Struggle (1990); Humberto Belli, Breaking Faith: The Sandinista Revolution and Its Impact on Freedom and Christian Faith in Nicaragua (1985); Laura J. Enríquez, Harvesting Change: Labor and Agrarian Reform in Nicaragua, 1979–1990 (1991); Roger N. Lancaster, Life Is Hard: Machismo, Danger, and the Intimacy of Power in Nicaragua (1992); Gary Ruchwarger, People in Power: Forging a Grassroots Democracy in Nicaragua (1987); and Mary B. Vanderlaan, Revolution and Foreign Policy in Nicaragua (1986).The perspectives of two American authors with firsthand experience as a diplomat and journalist, respectively, in 1980s Nicaragua are given in Timothy C. Brown, The Real Contra War: Highlander Peasant Resistance in Nicaragua (2001); and Stephen Kinzer, Blood of Brothers: Life and War in Nicaragua (1991). A personal account of a woman who joined the Sandinista movement is told in Gioconda Belli, The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War, trans. by Kristina Cordero and Gioconda Belli (2001; originally published in Spanish, 2000).Two excellent annotated bibliographies are Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr. (compiler), Nicaragua, rev. and expanded ed. (1994); and Neil Snarr et al., Sandinista Nicaragua, 2 vol. (1989–90).Manuel S. Orozco

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Universalium. 2010.

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