Photos of Nicaragua

A beachfront restaurant awaits the crowds.

Introduction

Background

The Pacific coast of Nicaragua was settled as a Spanish colony 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. By 1978, violent opposition to governmental manipulation and corruption resulted in a short-lived civil war that brought a civil-military coalition to power in 1979, spearheaded by Marxist Sandinista guerrillas led by Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra. 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, ORTEGA was elected president in 2006, 2011, 2016, and most recently in 2021. Municipal, regional, and national-level elections since 2008 have been marred by widespread irregularities. Democratic institutions have lost their independence under the ORTEGA regime as the president has assumed full control over all branches of government, as well as cracking down on a nationwide pro-democracy protest movement in 2018 and shuttering over 3,300 civil society organizations between 2018 and 2024. In the lead-up to the 2021 presidential election, authorities arrested over 40 individuals linked to the opposition, including presidential candidates, private sector leaders, NGO workers, human rights defenders, and journalists. Only five lesser-known presidential candidates from mostly small parties allied to ORTEGA's Sandinistas were allowed to run against ORTEGA. He then awarded the Sandinistas control of all 153 of Nicaraguan municipalities in the 2022 municipal elections, consolidating one-party rule. 

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

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

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean

Area

total: 130,370 sq km

land: 119,990 sq km

water: 10,380 sq km

comparison ranking: total 98

Area - comparative

slightly larger than Pennsylvania; slightly smaller than New York state

Area comparison map:
Area comparison map

Land boundaries

total: 1,253 km

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

Coastline

910 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

continental shelf: natural prolongation

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

highest point: Mogoton 2,085 m

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

mean elevation: 298 m

Natural resources

gold, silver, copper, tungsten, lead, zinc, timber, fish

Land use

agricultural land: 42.2% (2018 est.)

arable land: 12.5% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 2.5% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 27.2% (2018 est.)

forest: 25.3% (2018 est.)

other: 32.5% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

1,990 sq km (2012)

Major lakes (area sq km)

fresh water lake(s): Lago de Nicaragua - 8,150 sq km; Lago de Managua - 1,040 sq km

Population distribution

the overwhelming majority of the population resides in the western half of the country, with much of the urban growth centered in the capital city of Managua; coastal areas also show large population clusters

Natural hazards

destructive earthquakes; volcanoes; landslides; extremely susceptible to hurricanes

volcanism: significant volcanic activity; Cerro Negro (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

Geography - note

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

People and Society

Population

total: 6,676,948

male: 3,273,900

female: 3,403,048 (2024 est.)

comparison rankings: female 109; male 108; total 108

Nationality

noun: Nicaraguan(s)

adjective: Nicaraguan

Ethnic groups

Mestizo (mixed Indigenous and White) 69%, White 17%, Black 9%, Indigenous 5%

Languages

Spanish (official) 99.5%, Indigenous 0.3%, Portuguese 0.1%, other 0.1%; note - English and indigenous languages found on the Caribbean coast (2020 est.)

major-language sample(s):
La Libreta Informativa del Mundo, la fuente indispensable de información básica. (Spanish)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.

Spanish audio sample:

Religions

Roman Catholic 44.9%, Protestant 38.7% (Evangelical 38.2, Adventist 0.5%), other 1.2%, (includes Jehovah's Witness and Church of Jesus Christ), believer but not belonging to a church 1%, agnostic or atheist 0.4%, none 13.7%, unspecified 0.2% (2020 est.)

Demographic profile

Despite being one of the poorest countries in Latin America, Nicaragua has improved its access to potable water and sanitation and has ameliorated its life expectancy, infant and child mortality, and immunization rates. However, income distribution is very uneven, and the poor, agriculturalists, and indigenous people continue to have less access to healthcare services. Nicaragua's total fertility rate has fallen from around 6 children per woman in 1980 to below replacement level today, but the high birth rate among adolescents perpetuates a cycle of poverty and low educational attainment.

Nicaraguans emigrate primarily to Costa Rica and to a lesser extent the United States. Nicaraguan men have been migrating seasonally to Costa Rica to harvest bananas and coffee since the early 20th century. Political turmoil, civil war, and natural disasters from the 1970s through the 1990s dramatically increased the flow of refugees and permanent migrants seeking jobs, higher wages, and better social and healthcare benefits. Since 2000, Nicaraguan emigration to Costa Rica has slowed and stabilized. Today roughly 300,000 Nicaraguans are permanent residents of Costa Rica - about 75% of the foreign population - and thousands more migrate seasonally for work, many illegally.

Age structure

0-14 years: 25.1% (male 855,256/female 818,714)

15-64 years: 68.9% (male 2,240,297/female 2,360,244)

65 years and over: 6% (2024 est.) (male 178,347/female 224,090)

2023 population pyramid:
2023 population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 54.4

youth dependency ratio: 46.4

elderly dependency ratio: 8

potential support ratio: 12.6 (2021 est.)

Median age

total: 29 years (2024 est.)

male: 28.1 years

female: 29.9 years

comparison ranking: total 147

Population growth rate

0.95% (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 97

Birth rate

16.4 births/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 97

Death rate

5.1 deaths/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 191

Net migration rate

-1.8 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 166

Population distribution

the overwhelming majority of the population resides in the western half of the country, with much of the urban growth centered in the capital city of Managua; coastal areas also show large population clusters

Urbanization

urban population: 59.8% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 1.45% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Major urban areas - population

1.095 million MANAGUA (capital) (2023)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

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

15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.8 male(s)/female

total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2024 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

19.2 years (2011/12 est.)

note: data represents median age at first birth among women 25-29

Maternal mortality ratio

78 deaths/100,000 live births (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: 74

Infant mortality rate

total: 14.4 deaths/1,000 live births (2024 est.)

male: 15.9 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 12.8 deaths/1,000 live births

comparison ranking: total 96

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 74.7 years (2024 est.)

male: 73.2 years

female: 76.4 years

comparison ranking: total population 139

Total fertility rate

1.83 children born/woman (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 134

Gross reproduction rate

0.89 (2024 est.)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 97.5% of population

rural: 62.6% of population

total: 83.2% of population

unimproved: urban: 2.5% of population

rural: 37.4% of population

total: 16.8% of population (2020 est.)

Current health expenditure

8.6% of GDP (2020)

Physician density

1.67 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Hospital bed density

0.9 beds/1,000 population (2017)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 89.9% of population

rural: 66.5% of population

total: 80.3% of population

unimproved: urban: 10.1% of population

rural: 33.5% of population

total: 19.7% of population (2020 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: high (2023)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

23.7% (2016)

comparison ranking: 63

Alcohol consumption per capita

total: 3.69 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

beer: 1.57 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

wine: 0.02 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

spirits: 2.1 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

other alcohols: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: total 101

Education expenditures

4.6% of GDP (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: 96

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 82.6%

male: 82.4%

female: 82.8% (2015)

Environment

Environment - current issues

deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution; drought

Environment - international agreements

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

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Climate

tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands

Land use

agricultural land: 42.2% (2018 est.)

arable land: 12.5% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 2.5% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 27.2% (2018 est.)

forest: 25.3% (2018 est.)

other: 32.5% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 59.8% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 1.45% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Revenue from forest resources

1.26% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 49

Revenue from coal

0% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 98

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 16 micrograms per cubic meter (2019 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 5.59 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 6.46 megatons (2020 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 1,528,816 tons (2010 est.)

Major lakes (area sq km)

fresh water lake(s): Lago de Nicaragua - 8,150 sq km; Lago de Managua - 1,040 sq km

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 286 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

industrial: 50 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

agricultural: 1.08 billion cubic meters (2020 est.)

Total renewable water resources

164.52 billion cubic meters (2020 est.)

Geoparks

total global geoparks and regional networks: 1

global geoparks and regional networks: Rio Coco (2023)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Nicaragua

conventional short form: Nicaragua

local long form: República 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

presidential republic

Capital

name: Managua

geographic coordinates: 12 08 N, 86 15 W

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

etymology: may derive from the indigenous Nahuatl term "mana-ahuac," which translates as "adjacent to the water" or a site "surrounded by water"; the city is situated on the southwestern shore of Lake Managua

Administrative divisions

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

Independence

15 September 1821 (from Spain)

National holiday

Independence Day, 15 September (1821)

Constitution

history: several previous; latest adopted 19 November 1986, effective 9 January 1987

amendments: proposed by the president of the republic or assent of at least half of the National Assembly membership; passage requires approval by 60% of the membership of the next elected Assembly and promulgation by the president of the republic; amended several times, last in 2021

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

citizenship by birth: yes

citizenship by descent only: yes

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

residency requirement for naturalization: 4 years

Suffrage

16 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Jose Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra (since 10 January 2007)

head of government: President Jose Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra (since 10 January 2007)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president

elections/appointments: president and vice president directly elected on the same ballot by qualified plurality vote for a 5-year term (no term limits); election last held on 7 November 2021 (next to be held on 1 November 2026)

election results:
2021: Jose Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra reelected president for a fourth consecutive term; percent of vote - Jose Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra (FSLN) 75.9%, Walter ESPINOZA (PLC) 14.3%, Guillermo OSORNO (CCN) 3.3%, Marcelo MONTIEL (ALN) 3.1%, other 3.4%

2016:
Jose Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra reelected president for a third consecutive term; percent of vote - Jose Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra (FSLN) 72.4%, Maximino RODRIGUEZ (PLC) 15%, Jose del Carmen ALVARADO (PLI) 4.5%, Saturnino CERRATO Hodgson (ALN) 4.3%, other 3.7%

note: the president is both chief of state and head of government

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional (92 statutory seats, current 91; 70 members in multi-seat constituencies, representing the country's 15 departments and 2 autonomous regions, and 20 members in a single nationwide constituency directly elected by party-list proportional representation vote; up to 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 7 November 2021 (next to be held on 1 November 2026)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - FSLN 75, PLC 9, ALN 2, APRE 1, CCN 1, PLI 1, YATAMA 1; composition - men 42, women 49, percentage women 53.9%

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 labor courts; military courts are independent of the Supreme Court

Political parties and leaders

Alliance for the Republic or APRE [Carlos CANALES]
Alternative for Change or AC (operates in a political alliance with the FSLN) [Orlando Jose TARDENCILLA]
Autonomous Liberal Party or PAL [Rene Margarito BELLO ROMERO]
Caribbean Unity Movement or PAMUC [Armando Francisco ARISTA FLORES]
Christian Unity Party or PUC (operates in a political alliance with the FSLN) [Guillermo Daniel ORTEGA REYES]
Independent Liberal Party or PLI [Mario ASENSIO]
Liberal Constitutionalist Party or PLC [Maria Haydee OSUNA]
Moskitia Indigenous Progressive Movement or MOSKITIA PAWANKA (operates in a political alliance with the FSLN) [Wycliff Diego BLANDON]
Multiethnic Indigenous Party or PIM (operates in a political alliance with the FSLN) [Carla Elvis WHITE HODGSON]
Nationalist Liberal Party or PLN (operates in a political alliance with the FSLN) [Constantino Raul VELASQUEZ]
Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance or ALN [Alejandro MEJIA Ferreti]
Nicaraguan Party of the Christian Path or CCN [Guillermo OSORNO]
Nicaraguan Resistance Party or PRN (operates in a political alliance with the FSLN) [Julio Cesar BLANDON SANCHEZ]
Sandinista National Liberation Front or FSLN [Jose Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra]
Sons of Mother Earth or YATAMA [Brooklyn RIVERA]
The New Sons of Mother Earth Movement or MYATAMARAN (operates in a political alliance with the FSLN) [Osorno Salomon COLEMAN]

International organization participation

ACS, BCIE, CACM, CD, CELAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAES, LAIA (observer), MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, Petrocaribe, SICA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNOOSA, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Chargé d'Affaires M. Lautaro SANDINO Montes (since 23 February 2024)

chancery: 1627 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009

telephone: [1] (202) 939-6570

FAX: [1] (202) 939-6545

email address and website:
mperalta@cancilleria.gob.ni

United States of America | ConsuladoDeNicaragua.com

consulate(s) general: Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Chargé d’Affaires Kevin Michael O'REILLY (since 28 June 2023)

embassy: Kilometer 5.5 Carretera Sur, Managua

mailing address: 3240 Managua Place, Washington DC  20521-3240

telephone: [505] 2252-7100,

FAX: [505] 2252-7250

email address and website:
ACS.Managua@state.gov

https://ni.usembassy.gov/

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

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 2 (both cultural)

selected World Heritage Site locales: Ruins of León Viejo; León Cathedral

Economy

Economic overview

low-income Central American economy; until 2018, nearly 20 years of sustained GDP growth; recent struggles due to COVID-19, political instability, and hurricanes; significant remittances; increasing poverty and food scarcity since 2005; sanctions limit investment

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$40.456 billion (2022 est.)
$38.994 billion (2021 est.)
$35.337 billion (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 126

Real GDP growth rate

3.75% (2022 est.)
10.35% (2021 est.)
-1.77% (2020 est.)

note: annual GDP % growth based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 115

Real GDP per capita

$5,800 (2022 est.)
$5,700 (2021 est.)
$5,200 (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 163

GDP (official exchange rate)

$15.672 billion (2022 est.)

note: data in current dollars at official exchange rate

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

10.47% (2022 est.)
4.93% (2021 est.)
3.68% (2020 est.)

note: annual % change based on consumer prices

comparison ranking: 163

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: B- (2018)

Moody's rating: B3 (2020)

Standard & Poors rating: B- (2018)

note: The year refers to the year in which the current credit rating was first obtained.

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 15.5% (2017 est.)

industry: 24.4% (2017 est.)

services: 60% (2017 est.)

comparison rankings: services 126; industry 113; agriculture 62

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 69.9% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 15.3% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 28.1% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 1.7% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 41.2% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -55.4% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

sugarcane, milk, rice, oil palm fruit, maize, plantains, cassava, groundnuts, beans, coffee (2022)

note: top ten agricultural products based on tonnage

Industries

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

1.39% (2022 est.)

note: annual % change in industrial value added based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 139

Labor force

3.189 million (2022 est.)

note: number of people ages 15 or older who are employed or seeking work

comparison ranking: 101

Unemployment rate

4.99% (2022 est.)
6.27% (2021 est.)
6.28% (2020 est.)

note: % of labor force seeking employment

comparison ranking: 100

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 11.6% (2021 est.)

male: 10.2%

female: 15.5%

comparison ranking: total 139

Population below poverty line

24.9% (2016 est.)

note: % of population with income below national poverty line

Gini Index coefficient - distribution of family income

46.2 (2014 est.)

note: index (0-100) of income distribution; higher values represent greater inequality

comparison ranking: 19

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2%

highest 10%: 37.2% (2014 est.)

note: % share of income accruing to lowest and highest 10% of population

Remittances

20.59% of GDP (2022 est.)
15.2% of GDP (2021 est.)
14.63% of GDP (2020 est.)

note: personal transfers and compensation between resident and non-resident individuals/households/entities

Budget

revenues: $3.452 billion (2019 est.)

expenditures: $3.511 billion (2019 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-2% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

comparison ranking: 102

Public debt

33.3% of GDP (2017 est.)
31.2% of GDP (2016 est.)

note: official data; data cover general government debt and include debt instruments issued (or owned) by Government entities other than the treasury; the data include treasury debt held by foreign entities, as well as intragovernmental debt; intragovernmental 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

comparison ranking: 159

Taxes and other revenues

19.81% (of GDP) (2022 est.)

note: central government tax revenue as a % of GDP

comparison ranking: 87

Current account balance

-$215.895 million (2022 est.)
-$438.479 million (2021 est.)
$456.1 million (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - net trade and primary/secondary income in current dollars

comparison ranking: 96

Exports

$7.87 billion (2022 est.)
$6.618 billion (2021 est.)
$5.342 billion (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - exports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 123

Exports - partners

US 52%, Mexico 12%, Honduras 7%, El Salvador 6%, Costa Rica 3% (2022)

note: top five export partners based on percentage share of exports

Exports - commodities

garments, gold, coffee, insulated wire, beef (2022)

note: top five export commodities based on value in dollars

Imports

$10.213 billion (2022 est.)
$8.342 billion (2021 est.)
$5.952 billion (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - imports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 119

Imports - partners

US 26%, China 11%, Honduras 10%, Guatemala 9%, Mexico 9% (2022)

note: top five import partners based on percentage share of imports

Imports - commodities

garments, refined petroleum, fabric, plastic products, crude petroleum (2022)

note: top five import commodities based on value in dollars

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$4.404 billion (2022 est.)
$4.047 billion (2021 est.)
$3.212 billion (2020 est.)

note: holdings of gold (year-end prices)/foreign exchange/special drawing rights in current dollars

comparison ranking: 119

Debt - external

$11.674 billion (2019 est.)
$11.771 billion (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 108

Exchange rates

cordobas (NIO) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
35.874 (2022 est.)
35.171 (2021 est.)
34.342 (2020 est.)
33.122 (2019 est.)
31.553 (2018 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 86.5% (2022 est.)

electrification - urban areas: 100%

electrification - rural areas: 66.3%

Electricity

installed generating capacity: 1.841 million kW (2022 est.)

consumption: 4.169 billion kWh (2022 est.)

imports: 995.1 million kWh (2022 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 1.11 billion kWh (2022 est.)

comparison rankings: transmission/distribution losses 103; imports 76; consumption 133; installed generating capacity 123

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 31.4% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

solar: 0.7% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

wind: 15.3% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

hydroelectricity: 14% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

geothermal: 16.9% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

biomass and waste: 21.6% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

Petroleum

total petroleum production: 200 bbl/day (2023 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 36,000 bbl/day (2022 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

4.987 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2022 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 4.987 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total emissions 135

Energy consumption per capita

12.903 million Btu/person (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: 144

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 216,000 (2022 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 3 (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 118

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 6.652 million (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 97 (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 114

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: Nicaragua’s telecoms market has mirrored the country’s poor economic achievements, with fixed-line teledensity and mobile penetration also being the lowest in Central America; the fixed line broadband market remains nascent, with population penetration below 4%; most internet users are concentrated in the largest cities, given that rural and marginal areas lack access to the most basic telecom infrastructure; internet cafés provide public access to internet and email services, but these also tend to be restricted to the larger population centers; to address poor infrastructure, the World Bank has funded a project aimed at improving connectivity via a national fiber broadband network; there are separate schemes to improve broadband in eastern regions and provide links to Caribbean submarine cables; the number of mobile subscribers overtook the number of fixed lines in early 2002, and the mobile sector now accounts for most lines in service (2021)

domestic: fixed-line teledensity is 3 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular telephone subscribership is 91 per 100 persons (2021)

international: country code - 505; landing point for the ARCOS fiber-optic submarine cable which 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) (2019)

Broadcast media

multiple terrestrial TV stations, supplemented by cable TV in most urban areas; nearly all are government-owned or affiliated; more than 300 radio stations, both government-affiliated and privately owned (2019)

Internet users

total: 3.933 million (2021 est.)

percent of population: 57% (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total 112

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 290,351 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 4 (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 108

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 7

Airports

39 (2024)

comparison ranking: 104

Pipelines

54 km oil (2013)

Roadways

total: 24,033 km

paved: 3,447 km

unpaved: 20,586 km (2013)

comparison ranking: total 109

Waterways

2,220 km (2011) (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)

comparison ranking: 41

Merchant marine

total: 5 (2023)

by type: general cargo 1, oil tanker 1, other 3

comparison ranking: total 168

Ports

total ports: 5 (2024)

large: 0

medium: 0

small: 2

very small: 3

ports with oil terminals: 4

key ports: Bluefields, Corinto, El Bluff, Puerto Cabezas, Puerto Sandino

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Armed Forces of Nicaragua (formal name is Army of Nicaragua or Ejercito de Nicaragua, EN): Land Forces (Fuerza Terrestre); Naval Forces (Fuerza Naval); Air Forces (Fuerza Aérea) (2024)

note: both the military and the Nicaraguan National Police (Policía Nacional de Nicaragua or PNN) report directly to the president; Parapolice, which are non-uniformed, armed, and masked units with marginal tactical training and loose hierarchical organization, act in coordination with government security forces and report directly to the National Police; they have been used to suppress anti-government protesters

Military expenditures

0.6% of GDP (2022 est.)
0.6% of GDP (2021 est.)
0.6% of GDP (2020 est.)
0.6% of GDP (2019 est.)
0.6% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 150

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 12,000 active personnel (10,000 Army; 800 Navy; 1,200 Air Force) (2023)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the military's inventory includes mostly secondhand Russian/Soviet-era equipment; in recent years, Russia has been the leading arms supplier to Nicaragua (2023)

Military service age and obligation

18-30 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription; tour of duty 18-36 months (2024)

Military - note

the military is responsible for defending Nicaragua’s independence, sovereignty, and territory, but also has some domestic security responsibilities; key tasks include border security, assisting the police, protecting natural resources, and providing disaster relief and humanitarian assistance; it has ties with the militaries of Cuba, Venezuela, and Russia; Russia has provided training support and equipment 

the modern Army of Nicaragua was created in 1979 as the Sandinista Popular Army (1979-1984); prior to 1979, the military was known as the National Guard, which was organized and trained by the US in the 1920s and 1930s; the first commander of the National Guard, Anastasio SOMOZA GARCIA, seized power in 1937 and ran the country as a military dictator until his assassination in 1956; his sons ran the country either directly or through figureheads until the Sandinistas came to power in 1979; the defeated National Guard was disbanded by the Sandinistas (2024)

Space

Space agency/agencies

National Secretariat for Extraterrestrial Space Affairs, The Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Secretaría Nacional para Asuntos del Espacio Ultraterrestre, la Luna y otros Cuerpos Celestes, established 2021; operates under the military’s control) (2024)

Space program overview

stated mission of the space agency is to promote the development of space activities with the aim of broadening the country’s capacities in the fields of education, industry, science, and technology; has cooperated with China and Russia; is a signatory of the convention establishing the Latin American and Caribbean Space Agency (ALCE) (2024)

note: further details about the key activities, programs, and milestones of the country’s space program, as well as government spending estimates on the space sector, appear in Appendix S

Transnational Issues

Trafficking in persons

tier rating: Tier 3 — Nicaragua does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, therefore, Nicaragua remained on Tier 3; the government took some steps to address trafficking, including passing a new National Action Plan; however, the government continued to minimize the severity of the trafficking problem, did not have shelters, and did not allocate funding for victim services; authorities made negligible efforts to address labor trafficking—which remained a serious concern—and victim identification efforts remained inadequate; officials did not convict any traffickers and did not support Nicaraguan trafficking victims identified in foreign countries; the government did not cooperate with civil society to fund their work or refer victims to them for support (2023)

Illicit drugs


transit route for illicit drugs originating from South America destined for the United States