Nicaragua flag

PRESIDENT: Daniel Ortega (Jan. 2007 - 2012)

POPULATION: 5.5 million

KEY EXPORTS: Coffee, cotton, sugarcane, meat

Andrew Clem blog


Nicaragua blog archives

Recent chronology

Nov. 2001Liberal party candidate Enrique Bolaños defeats Daniel Ortega in presidential election.
Aug. 2002Nicaragua and Costa Rica may be heading toward a border dispute after a mistakenly placed border marker was recently discovered 3.5 miles inside supposed Costa Rican territory.
Aug. 2002Pres. Bolaños asked Congress to lift the immunity of his predecessor, Arnoldo Aleman, so that he may be tried on charges of corruption. Aleman supposedly diverted $66 million in public funds to a bank account in Panama.
Nov. 2002Pres. Bolaños waived immunity against criminal charges in order to challenge the accusations leveled against him by the attorney general, who is a friend of former president Aleman.
Dec. 2002The National Assembly revoked the immunity of former Pres. Aleman, who was immediately put under house arrest and faces criminal charges for having embezzled $51 million in state funds. Aleman's supporters protested violently, burning tires in the streets of Managua.
Dec. 2002Nicaragua protested the seizure of a fishing boat in the Caribbean Sea by the Colombian navy. Countries in that region have become increasingly jealous about their overlapping "exclusive economic zones."
Aug. 2003Ex-pres. Aleman is convicted of corruption and sentenced to 20 years in prison, but is later transferred to house arrest.
Jan. 2004World Bank forgives 80% of Nicaragua's debt.
July 2004Russia agrees to write-off Nicaragua's multi-billion-dollar debt incurred during the 1980s.
2004The Sandinistas won in municipal elections.
Mar. 2005The dissident faction of the Sandinista party led by Herty Lewites (former mayor of Managua) was forcibly prevented from entering a party meeting. Daniel Ortega prevailed in the showdown.
Apr. 2005Increased prices for fuel and other goods unleash street protests.
Oct. 2005Visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick told opposition leaders (left-wing Sandinistas and the right-wing "Arnulfistas") to stop their campaign to oust President Enrique Bolaños. Nicaraguan congress approves CAFTA.
Nov. 2005Old border dispute resurfaced: Costa Rica presented a complaint to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Nicaragua imposed punitive entry fees on Costa Rican travelers, and raised the long-dormant territorial claim on Costa Rican province of Guanacaste.
Apr. 2006CAFTA enters into forces.

External links

Central America map


The Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua are divided a mountain range in which several active volcanoes are found. That reflects the large seismic fault that often causes earthquakes. Two large lakes in the middle of the country, and the world's only fresh-water sharks are found in Lake Nicaragua, the larger of the two. The eastern half of the country consists of mostly flat, almost impenetrable jungle that is mostly inhabited by Indians.


Nicaraguan became an independent country in 1838 when the Central American Confederation was dissolved. Domestic order remained precarious, however, and the Caribbean coast was controlled by Britain until 1860. During a civil war in 1854, one of the factions invited the American adventurer William Walker, who tried to establish himself as dictator as a prelude to annexation to the United States. Within two years, however, he was overthrown. The United States briefly intervened in 1909 to depose General Jose Santos Zelaya, a Liberal dictator. U.S. troops returned in 1912 and established a semi-permanent presence, with several military bases in which a new American-style army called the "National Guard" was created. This foreign intrusion outraged nationalist sensibilities in Nicaragua, and set the stage for a resistance movement led by Augusto Sandino in 1927. The Marines finally left for good in 1933, under the "Good Neighbor" policy of President Franklin Roosevelt. Prospects for reconciliation crumbled, however, when Sandino was murdered under orders from General Anastasio Somoza. He arranged to be elected president in 1937, and ruled as an absolute dictator until he was assassinated in 1956. His son Luis Debayle Somonza succeeded him, and after he died in 1967 the other son, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, became president. A terrible earthquake in 1972 set the stage for revolution, as much of the emergency relief money donated by the United States ended up in the hands of the hated dictator Anastasio Somoza. The Sandinista National Liberation Front began a guerrilla campaign, and occupied the National Palace in August 1978, taking the Congress hostage. After the assassination of moderate opposition leader Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, many businessmen began to oppose Somoza, paving the way for the Sandinistas' triumph in 1979. The FSLN leader, Daniel Ortega, gravitate toward Castro's Cuba, and by 1980 Nicaragua was on its way to becoming another Soviet satellite. Under the Reagan administration, the United States began to support the counter-revlutionary forces ("Contras"), and many people suffered from the fighting. As the winds of freedom swept through eastern Europe in 1989, President Ortega decided to take a real risk on democracy, but to the surprise of many foreign observers, he was defeated by Violeta Chamorro, the window of a moderate opposition leader during the Somoza era. The Sandinistas retained control of the large, well-equipped army, however, and Chamorrow could not get much done. Liberal (pro-business) Arnoldo Aleman was elected president in 1996, but he was later implicated in a web of corruption. Gradually Nicaragua opened up to foreign investment and its economy began to recover by the turn of the century.


Nicaragua was the home of one of the most prominent poets of Latin America, Ruben Dario (1867-1916). He was a leading proponent of the Modernist literary school that broke the bonds of traditional verse and helped to form a transnational, Spanish-American cultural identity. He also served as a diplomat. The fact that cattle ranching is so widespread imparts a more "western" flavor to Nicaraguan culture. The city of Granada has a great deal of well-preserved colonial-era architecture, and is a major center of tourism and culture.

Old cathedral (damaged by earthquake) in Managua.
Lakefront park in Granada.
Sandinista rebel monument in Managua.
Congress building in Managua.
Colonial era buildings in Granada.
Dennis Martinez baseball stadium in Managua.
In center: Central plaza in Granada.

Click on this thumbnail image to see a gallery of these and other photos. (February 2005)

Tiny diamond Baseball: medium interest; 4 semi-pro teams in Nicaraguan League


A series of scandals has rocked the Liberal Party (conservative by American standards), stalling the free market economic policy agenda. Supporters of former President Aleman, who was convicted of embezzlement, have joined with the Marxist Sandinista Party, whose leader Daniel Ortega (former president) is making a bid for a political comeback. Presidential elections will be held on November 5, 2006.

Sandinista Liberation Movement Nic. Liberal Alliance (ALN) Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC)
Daniel Ortega Eduardo Montealegre Jorge Castillo
38 (38) 23 (53*) 25 (*)

NOTE: Width of each column shows each party's approximate strength. Colors and position (left to right) represent ideological leanings, which are often vague. Numbers show how many seats each party has in the unicameral National Assembly. Minor parties are not shown. * indicates party split.

SOURCE: CIA World Factbook