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.
Area comparative: Slightly smaller than the state of
Climate: Tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands.
Terrain: Extensive Atlantic coastal plains rising to
central interior mountains; narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted
(July 2002 est.)
Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and White) 69%, White 17%, Black
9%, Amerindian 5%
Catholic 85%, Protestant
note: English and indigenous languages on Atlantic
Civil law system; Supreme Court may review administrative
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.
Communication/Telephone system: Inadequate system
being upgraded by foreign investment.
Places of interest:
Travel tips: Since the end of the civil war, armed
criminal groups have operated out of the northern sectors
of the country, especially along the Honduran border. Travelers
visiting the border region should exercise a special measure