The Central American country of Nicaragua borders
both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It is
situated between Costa Rica on the south and Honduras
to the north.
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. 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.
Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere, has widespread underemployment and poverty with a per capita income of $4,500 in 2013. 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. Textiles and agriculture combined account for nearly 50% of Nicaragua's exports. In 2013, the government granted a 100-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 $40 billion.
Despite being one of the poorest countries in Latin America, Nicaragua has improved its access to potable water and sanitation. However, income distribution is very uneven, and the poor, agriculturalists, and indigenous people continue to have less access to healthcare services. The high birth rate among adolescents perpetuates a cycle of poverty and low educational attainment.
Nicaragua is a constitutional republic. The president and vice president are elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a five-year term. Elections were last held November 2011 (next to be held November 2016).