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Nicaragua Country Information

Background:
The Pacific Coast of Nicaragua was settled as a Spanish colony from Panama in the early 16th century. Independence from Spain was declared in 1821 and the country became an independent republic in 1838. Britain occupied the Caribbean Coast in the first half of the 19th century, but gradually ceded control of the region in subsequent decades. Violent opposition to governmental manipulation and corruption spread to all classes by 1978 and resulted in a short-lived civil war that brought the Marxist Sandinista guerrillas to power in 1979. Nicaraguan aid to leftist rebels in El Salvador caused the US to sponsor anti-Sandinista contra guerrillas through much of the 1980s. Free elections in 1990, 1996, and 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
Location: Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Costa Rica and Honduras

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

Border countries: Costa Rica, Honduras

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

People
Population: 5,359,759 (July 2004 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 38.1% (male 1,038,887; female 1,001,518)
15-64 years: 58.9% (male 1,570,494; female 1,586,706)
65 years and over: 3% (male 71,125; female 91,029) (2004 est.)
Median age: 20.2 years
Population growth rate: 1.97%
Life expectancy at birth: male: 67.99 years
female: 72.16 years (2004 est.)

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 (age 15 and over can read and write): total population: 67.5%

Government
Country name: Republic of Nicaragua
Government type: republic
Capital: Managua
Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)
Suffrage: 16 years of age; universal

Executive branch: chief of state: President Enrique BOLANOS Geyer (since 10 January 2002); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (92 seats; members are elected by proportional representation and party lists to serve five-year terms; one seat for previous President, one seat for runner-up in previous Presidential election
Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (16 judges elected for five-year terms by the National Assembly)

Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Salvador STADTHAGEN
consulate(s) general: Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York
FAX: [1] (202) 939-6542
telephone: [1] (202) 939-6570

Embassy: Apartado Postal 327, Kilometer 4.5 Carretera Sur, Managua
mailing address: APO AA 34021
telephone: [505] 266-6010, 266-2298, 266-6013
FAX: [505] 266-9074

Economy
Nicaragua, one of the hemisphere's poorest countries, faces low per capita income, massive unemployment, and huge external debt. Distribution of income is one of the most unequal on the globe. While the country has made progress toward macroeconomic stability over the past few years, GDP annual growth of 1.5% - 2.5% has been far too low to meet the country's need. Nicaragua will continue to be dependent on international aid and debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Nicaragua has undertaken significant economic reforms that are expected to help the country qualify for more than $4 billion in debt relief under HIPC in early 2004. Donors have made aid conditional on the openness of government financial operation, poverty alleviation, and human rights. A three-year poverty reduction and growth plan, agreed to with the IMF in December 2002, guides economic policy.

Population below poverty line: 50% (2001 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 42%, industry 15%, services 43% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate: 22% plus considerable underemployment (2004 est.)

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

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

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

Currency: gold cordoba (NIO)

Communications
Telephone system: inadequate system being upgraded by foreign investment
international: country code - 505



All information on this page provided by The World Factbook. See http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html.
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