Nicaragua facts on every entity in the world

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 prompted the US to sponsor anti-Sandinista contra guerrillas through much of the 1980s. After losing free and fair elections in 1990, 1996, and 2001, former Sandinista President Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra was elected president in 2006 and reelected in 2011. The 2008 municipal elections, 2010 regional elections, 2011 presidential election, 2012 municipal elections, and 2013 regional elections were marred by widespread irregularities. Nicaragua's infrastructure and economy - hard hit by the earlier civil war and by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 - are slowly being rebuilt, but democratic institutions have been weakened under the ORTEGA administration.



Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Costa Rica and Honduras

Geographic coordinates

13.00° N, 85.00° W

Area 98/257

total: 130,370 sq km

land: 119,990 sq km

water: 10,380 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly larger than Pennsylvania; slightly smaller than New York state

Land boundaries

total: 1,253 km

border countries (2): Costa Rica 313 km, Honduras 940 km


910 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

continental shelf: natural prolongation


tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands


extensive Atlantic coastal plains rising to central interior mountains; narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes


mean elevation:

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

agricultural land: 42.2%

arable land 12.5%; permanent crops 2.5%; permanent pasture 27.2%

forest: 25.3%

other: 32.5% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

1,990 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

196.6 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)

total: 1.39 cu km/yr (23%/4%/73%)

per capita: 265.9 cu m/yr (2008)

Natural hazards

destructive earthquakes; volcanoes; landslides; extremely susceptible to hurricanes

volcanism: significant volcanic activity; Cerro Negro (elev. 728 m), which last erupted in 1999, is one of Nicaragua's most active volcanoes; its lava flows and ash have been known to cause significant damage to farmland and buildings; other historically active volcanoes include Concepcion, Cosiguina, Las Pilas, Masaya, Momotombo, San Cristobal, and Telica

Environment - current issues

deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

largest country in Central America; contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua

People and Society


noun: Nicaraguan(s)

adjective: Nicaraguan

Ethnic groups

mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 69%, white 17%, black 9%, Amerindian 5%


Spanish (official) 95.3%, Miskito 2.2%, Mestizo of the Caribbean coast 2%, other 0.5%

note: English and indigenous languages found on the Caribbean coast (2005 est.)


Roman Catholic 58.5%, Protestant 23.2% (Evangelical 21.6%, Moravian 1.6%), Jehovah's Witnesses 0.9%, other 1.6%, none 15.7% (2005 est.)

Population 111/238

5,907,881 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 28.57% (male 860,721/female 827,136)

15-24 years: 22.16% (male 657,339/female 651,744)

25-54 years: 38.69% (male 1,081,081/female 1,204,669)

55-64 years: 5.6% (male 153,711/female 177,334)

65 years and over: 4.98% (male 131,965/female 162,181) (2015 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 54.1%

youth dependency ratio: 46.3%

elderly dependency ratio: 7.8%

potential support ratio: 12.8% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 24.7 years

male: 23.8 years

female: 25.5 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 118/233

1% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 103/224

18.03 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 185/225

5.08 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 181/222

-3 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)


urban population: 58.8% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 1.96% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

MANAGUA (capital) 956,000 (2015)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.9 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.87 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.81 male(s)/female

total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth


note: median age at first birth among women 20-24 (2006/07 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 76/184

150 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 88/224

total: 19.65 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 22.56 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 16.59 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 134/224

total population: 72.98 years

male: 70.81 years

female: 75.26 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 132/224

1.94 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

80.4% (2011/12)

Health expenditures 55/191

8.4% of GDP (2013)

Physicians density

0.9 physicians/1,000 population (2014)

Hospital bed density

0.9 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Drinking water source


urban: 99.3% of population

rural: 69.4% of population

total: 87% of population


urban: 0.7% of population

rural: 30.6% of population

total: 13% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access


urban: 76.5% of population

rural: 55.7% of population

total: 67.9% of population


urban: 23.5% of population

rural: 44.3% of population

total: 32.1% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

0.27% (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

10,000 (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

400 (2014 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 81/191

15.5% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight 85/138

5.7% (2007)

Education expenditures 88/173

4.4% of GDP (2010)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 110/134

total: 11.9%

male: 9.8%

female: 15.6% (2010 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Nicaragua

conventional short form: Nicaragua

local long form: Republica de Nicaragua

local short form: Nicaragua

etymology: Nicarao was the name of the largest indigenous settlement at the time of Spanish arrival; conquistador Gil GONZALEZ Davila, who explored the area (1622-23), combined the name of the community with the Spanish word "agua" (water), referring to the two large lakes in the west of the country (Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua)

Government type



name: Managua

geographic coordinates: 12.08° N, 86.15° W

time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

15 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento) and 2 autonomous regions* (regiones autonomistas, singular - region autonoma); Atlantico Norte*, Atlantico Sur*, Boaco, Carazo, Chinandega, Chontales, Esteli, Granada, Jinotega, Leon, Madriz, Managua, Masaya, Matagalpa, Nueva Segovia, Rio San Juan, Rivas


15 September 1821 (from Spain)

National holiday

Independence Day, 15 September (1821)


several previous; latest adopted 19 November 1986, effective 9 January 1987; amended several times, last in 2014 (2015)

Legal system

civil law system; Supreme Court may review administrative acts

International law organization participation

accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; non-party state to the ICCt


citizenship by birth: yes

citizenship by descent: yes

dual citizenship recognized: no, except in cases where bilateral agreements exist

residency requirement for naturalization: 4 years


16 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Jose Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra (since 10 January 2007); Vice President Moises Omar HALLESLEVENS Acevedo (since 10 January 2012); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: President Jose Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra (since 10 January 2007); Vice President Moises Omar HALLESLEVENS Acevedo (since 10 January 2012)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president

elections/appointments: president and vice president directly elected on the same ballot by simple majority popular vote for a 5-year term (no term limits); election last held on 6 November 2011 (next to be held by November 2016)

election results: Jose Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra reelected president; percent of vote - Jose Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra (FSLN) 62.5%, Fabio GADEA Mantilla (PLI) 31%, Arnoldo ALEMAN (PLC) 5.9%, other 0.6%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (92 seats; 70 members in multi-seat constituencies and 20 members in a single nationwide constituency directly elected by proportional representation vote; 2 seats reserved for the previous president and the runner-up candidate in the previous presidential election; members serve 5-year terms;)

elections: last held on 6 November 2011 (next to be held by November 2016)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - FSLN 62, PLI/MRS 26, PLC 2

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court or Corte Suprema de Justicia (consists of 16 judges organized into administrative, civil, criminal, and constitutional chambers)

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court judges elected by the National Assembly to serve 5-year staggered terms

subordinate courts: Appeals Court; first instance civil, criminal, and military courts

Political parties and leaders

Alliance for the Republic or APRE [Carlos CANALES]

Conservative Party or PC [Alejandro BOLANOS Davis]

Independent Liberal Party or PLI [Indalecio RODRIGUEZ]

Liberal Constitutionalist Party or PLC [Maria Haydee OSUNA]

Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance or ALN [Alejandro MEJIA Ferreti]

Sandinista National Liberation Front or FSLN [Jose Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra]

Sandinista Renovation Movement or MRS [Ana Margarita VIJIL]

Political pressure groups and leaders

National Workers Front or FNT (a 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)

Nicaraguan Workers' Central or CTN (an independent labor union)

Permanent Congress of Workers or CPT (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)

Superior Council of Private Enterprise or COSEP (a confederation of business groups)

International organization participation


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; the banner is based on the former blue-white-blue flag of the Federal Republic of Central America; the blue bands symbolize the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, while the white band represents the land between the two bodies of water

note: 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

National symbol(s)

turquoise-browed motmot (bird); national colors: blue, white

National anthem

name: "Salve a ti, Nicaragua" (Hail to Thee, Nicaragua)

lyrics/music: Salomon Ibarra MAYORGA/traditional, arranged by Luis Abraham DELGADILLO

note: although only officially adopted in 1971, the music was approved in 1918 and the lyrics in 1939; the tune, originally from Spain, was used as an anthem for Nicaragua from the 1830s until 1876


Economy - overview

Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere, has widespread underemployment and poverty. Textiles and agriculture combined account for nearly 50% of Nicaragua's exports.

The Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) has been in effect since April 2006 and has expanded export opportunities for many agricultural and manufactured goods.

In 2013, the government granted a 50-year concession to a newly formed Chinese-run company to finance and build an inter-oceanic canal and related projects, at an estimated cost of $50 billion. The canal construction has been delayed until the end of 2016.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 127/230

$31.18 billion (2015 est.)

$29.98 billion (2014 est.)

$28.63 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$12.32 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 62/225

4% (2015 est.)

4.7% (2014 est.)

4.5% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 169/230

$5,000 (2015 est.)

$4,800 (2014 est.)

$4,600 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving 80/179

20.9% of GDP (2015 est.)

19.6% of GDP (2014 est.)

17.6% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 82.7%

government consumption: 6.5%

investment in fixed capital: 28.8%

investment in inventories: 0%

exports of goods and services: 40.7%

imports of goods and services: -58.7%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 18.1%

industry: 22.9%

services: 58.9% (2015 est.)

Agriculture - products

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


food processing, chemicals, machinery and metal products, knit and woven apparel, petroleum refining and distribution, beverages, footwear, wood, electric wire harness manufacturing, mining

Industrial production growth rate 53/202

4% (2015 est.)

Labor force 104/233

2.98 million (2015 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 31%

industry: 18%

services: 50% (2011 est.)

Unemployment rate 69/207

6.1% (2015 est.)

6% (2014 est.)

note: underemployment was 46.5% in 2008

Population below poverty line

42.5% (2009 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1.4%

highest 10%: 41.8% (2005)

Distribution of family income - Gini index 59/144

40.5 (2010)

60.3 (1998)


revenues: $3.218 billion

expenditures: $3.504 billion (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 113/219

26.1% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 84/220

-2.3% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt 80/176

49.5% of GDP (2015 est.)

49.4% of GDP (2014 est.)

note: official data; data cover general Government Debt, and includes debt instruments issued (or owned) by Government entities other than the treasury; the data include treasury debt held by foreign entities, as well as intra-governmental debt; intra-governmental debt consists of treasury borrowings from surpluses in the social funds, such as retirement, medical care, and unemployment, debt instruments for the social funds are not sold at public auctions; Nicaragua rebased its GDP figures in 2012, which reduced the figures for debt as a percentage of GDP

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 160/226

4.2% (2015 est.)

6% (2014 est.)

Central bank discount rate 105/156

3% (31 December 2010)

Commercial bank prime lending rate 52/184

13.5% (31 December 2015 est.)

13.54% (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of narrow money 152/192

$1.033 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$943.8 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of broad money 137/193

$4.453 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

$4.136 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 122/191

$5.265 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$5.146 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares

Current account balance 112/197

-$807 million (2015 est.)

-$838 million (2014 est.)

Exports 126/224

$3.263 billion (2015 est.)

$3.622 billion (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

coffee, beef, gold, sugar, peanuts, shrimp and lobster, tobacco, cigars, automobile wiring harnesses, textiles, apparel, cotton

Exports - partners

US 52.3%, Mexico 11.8%, Venezuela 6.8%, Canada 5.9% (2014)

Imports 117/223

$6.163 billion (2015 est.)

$6.024 billion (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

consumer goods, machinery and equipment, raw materials, petroleum products

Imports - partners

US 16.2%, Venezuela 15.9%, Mexico 13.6%, China 9.1%, Guatemala 8.2%, Costa Rica 8%, El Salvador 5.4% (2014)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold 116/170

$2.32 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$2.276 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Debt - external 105/206

$10.19 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$9.631 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Exchange rates

cordobas (NIO) per US dollar -

27.31 (2015 est.)

26.01 (2014 est.)

26.01 (2013 est.)

23.55 (2012 est.)

22.42 (2011 est.)


Electricity - production 123/220

4.159 billion kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - consumption 127/219

3.556 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 87/218

16.23 million kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 104/219

51.97 million kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 121/214

1.275 million kW (2013 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 139/214

57.6% of total installed capacity (2013 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 159/214

0% of total installed capacity (2013 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 119/214

8.3% of total installed capacity (2013 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 3/212

34.1% of total installed capacity (2013 est.)

Crude oil - production 178/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 173/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 74/214

12,910 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 178/215

0 bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 104/214

10,810 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 116/212

30,000 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 116/214

396.1 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 114/213

19,760 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 115/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 183/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 159/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 115/214

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 182/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 127/212

5.285 million Mt (2012 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines 111/219

total subscriptions: 340,000

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 6 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 105/217

total: 7.1 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 121 (2014 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: system being upgraded by foreign investment; nearly all installed telecommunications capacity now uses digital technology, owing to investments since privatization of the formerly state-owned telecommunications company

domestic: since privatization, access to fixed-line and mobile-cellular services has improved; fixed-line teledensity roughly 5 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular telephone subscribership has increased to roughly 85 per 100 persons

international: country code - 505; the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) fiber optic submarine cable provides connectivity to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; satellite earth stations - 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region) and 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2011)

Broadcast media

multiple privately owned terrestrial TV networks, supplemented by cable TV in most urban areas; of more than 100 radio stations, nearly all are privately owned; Radio Nicaragua is government-owned and Radio Sandino is controlled by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) (2007)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 63, FM 32, shortwave 1 (1998)

Television broadcast stations

16 (2009)

Internet country code


Internet hosts 63/232

296,068 (2012)

Internet users 123/217

total: 845,100

percent of population: 14.5% (2014 est.)


Airports 40/236

147 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 12

2,438 to 3,047 m: 3

1,524 to 2,437 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 3

under 914 m: 4 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 135

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 15

under 914 m: 119 (2013)


oil 54 km (2013)

Roadways 101/223

total: 23,897 km

paved: 3,282 km

unpaved: 20,615 km (2012)

Waterways 39/107

2,220 km (navigable waterways as well as the use of the large Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua; rivers serve only the sparsely populated eastern part of the country) (2011)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Bluefields, Corinto

Military and Security

Military branches

National Army of Nicaragua (Ejercito Nacional de Nicaragua, ENN; includes Navy, Air Force) (2013)

Military service age and obligation

18-30 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription; tour of duty 18-36 months; requires Nicaraguan nationality and 6th-grade education (2012)

Military expenditures 120/132

0.63% of GDP (2012)

0.53% of GDP (2011)

0.63% of GDP (2010)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

the 1992 (International Court of Justice) ICJ ruling for El Salvador and Honduras advised a tripartite resolution to establish a maritime boundary in the Gulf of Fonseca, which considers Honduran access to the Pacific; Nicaragua and Costa Rica regularly file border dispute cases over the delimitations of the San Juan River and the northern tip of Calero Island to the ICJ; in 2009, the ICJ ruled that Costa Rican vessels carrying out police activities could not use the river, but official Costa Rican vessels providing essential services to riverside inhabitants and Costa Rican tourists could travel freely on the river; in 2011, the ICJ provisionally ruled that both countries must remove personnel from the disputed area; in 2013, the ICJ rejected Nicaragua's 2012 suit to halt Costa Rica's construction of a highway paralleling the river on the grounds of irreparable environmental damage; in 2013, the ICJ, regarding the disputed territory, ordered that Nicaragua should refrain from dredging or canal construction and refill and repair damage caused by trenches connecting the river to the Caribbean and upheld its 2010 ruling that Nicaragua must remove all personnel; in early 2014, Costa Rica brought Nicaragua to the ICJ over offshore oil concessions in the disputed region

Illicit drugs

transshipment point for cocaine destined for the US and transshipment point for arms-for-drugs dealing