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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Nicaragua (08/26/09)


August 26, 2009

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For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

PROFILE

Geography
Area: 129,494 sq. km. (59,998 sq. mi.); slightly larger than New York State.
Cities: Capital--Managua (pop. 1 million). Other major cities--Leon, Granada, Jinotega, Matagalpa, Chinandega, Masaya, Rivas.
Terrain: Extensive Atlantic coastal plains rising to central interior mountains; narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes.
Climate: Tropical in lowlands; cooler in highlands.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Nicaraguan(s).
Population (July 2009 est.): 5,891,200.
Annual growth rate (2009 est.): 1.784%. Density--42 per sq. km.
Ethnic groups: Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 69%, white 17%, black 9%, Amerindian 5%.
Religion: Predominantly Roman Catholic, with rapidly growing percentage of Evangelical Protestants.
Languages: Spanish (official), English and indigenous languages on Caribbean coast.
Education: Years compulsory--none enforced (28% of first graders eventually finish sixth grade). Literacy--81%.
Health: Life expectancy--72.9 yrs. Infant mortality rate--25 deaths/1,000 live births.
Work force (2008 est.): 2.322 million.

Government
Type: Republic.
Independence: 1821.
Constitution: The 1987 Sandinista-era constitution was changed in 1995 to provide for a more even distribution of power among the four branches of government and again in 2000 to increase the Supreme Court and the Controller General's Office and to make changes to the electoral laws. The changes in 2000 allowed for the president to be elected with 35% of the popular vote so long as there was at least a five percentage point difference between the first and second place candidates.
Branches: Executive--president and vice president. Legislative--National Assembly (unicameral). Judicial--Supreme Court; subordinate appeals, district, and local courts; separate labor and administrative tribunals. Electoral--Supreme Electoral Council, responsible for organizing and holding elections.
Administrative subdivisions: 15 departments and two autonomous regions on the Atlantic coast; 153 municipalities.
National political parties: Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN); Independent Liberal Party (PLI); Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN); Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC); Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS).
Suffrage: Universal at 16.

Economy
GDP (2008): $6.37 billion.
GDP real growth rate (2008): 3.2%.
Per capita GDP (2008): $1,123.
Inflation rate (2008): 13.8%.
Natural resources: arable land, fresh water, fisheries, gold, timber, hydro and geothermal power potential.
Agriculture and agricultural processing (31% of GDP): Products--coffee, bananas, sugarcane, cotton, rice, corn, tobacco, sesame, soya, beans, beef, veal, pork, poultry, dairy products, shrimp, lobsters.
Manufacturing (10% of GDP): Types--food processing, chemicals, machinery and metal products, textiles, clothing, petroleum refining and distribution, beverages, footwear, wood.
Services (55% of GDP): Types--banking, wholesale and retail distribution, telecommunications, and energy.
Construction (4% of GDP): Types--housing and infrastructure.
Trade (2008): National exports--$1.489 billion (f.o.b.): coffee, shrimp and lobster, beef, sugar, industrial goods, gold, bananas. Free trade zone exports--$1.153 billion: mostly textiles and apparel, automobile wiring harnesses, cigars. Markets--United States, Central American Common Market, European Union (EU), Mexico, Japan. Imports--$4.02 billion (f.o.b.) (2008)--consumer goods, machinery and equipment, raw materials, petroleum products. Free trade zone imports--$830.6 million. Suppliers--U.S. 22.5%, Mexico 13.5%, Costa Rica 8.4%, Venezuela 6.4%, Guatemala 6.2%, El Salvador 4.8% (2007).

PEOPLE
Most Nicaraguans are of both European and indigenous ancestry, and the culture of the country reflects the Ibero-European and indigenous heritage of its people. Only the indigenous of the eastern half of the country remain ethnically distinct and retain tribal customs and languages. A large black minority, of Afro-Caribbean origin, is concentrated on the Caribbean coast. In the mid-1980s, the central government divided the eastern half of the country--the former department of Zelaya--into two autonomous regions and granted the people of the region limited self-rule.

Roman Catholicism is the major religion, but Evangelical Protestant groups have grown recently, and there are strong Anglican and Moravian communities on the Caribbean coast. Most Nicaraguans live in the Pacific lowlands and the adjacent interior highlands. The population is 58% urban.

HISTORY
Nicaragua takes its name from Nicarao, chief of the indigenous tribe that lived around present-day Lake Nicaragua during the late 1400s and early 1500s. In 1524, Hernandez de Cordoba founded the first Spanish permanent settlements in the region, including two of Nicaragua's principal towns: Granada on Lake Nicaragua, and Leon east of Lake Managua. Nicaragua gained independence from Spain in 1821, briefly becoming a part of the Mexican Empire and then a member of a federation of independent Central American provinces. In 1838, Nicaragua became an independent republic.

Much of Nicaragua's politics since independence has been characterized by the rivalry between the Liberal elite of Leon and the Conservative elite of Granada, which often led to civil war. Initially invited by the Liberals in 1855 to join their struggle against the Conservatives, an American named William Walker and his "filibusters" seized the presidency in 1856. A historic battle between Walker's troops and Nicaraguan troops was fought in San Jacinto in September 1856, and is celebrated today as a national holiday. The Liberals and Conservatives united to drive Walker out of office in 1857. Three decades of Conservative rule followed. Taking advantage of divisions within the Conservative ranks, Jose Santos Zelaya led a Liberal revolt that brought him to power in 1893. Zelaya ended a longstanding dispute with Britain over the Atlantic Coast in 1894, and reincorporated that region into Nicaragua.

By 1909, differences had developed over a trans-isthmian canal and concessions to Americans in Nicaragua; there also was concern about what was perceived as Nicaragua's destabilizing influence in the region. In 1909 the United States provided political support to Conservative-led forces rebelling against President Zelaya and intervened militarily to protect American lives and property. With the exception of a 9-month period in 1925-26, the United States maintained troops in Nicaragua from 1912 until 1933. From 1927 until 1933, U.S. Marines stationed in Nicaragua engaged in a running battle with rebel forces led by renegade Liberal Gen. Augusto Sandino, who rejected a 1927 negotiated agreement brokered by the United States to end the latest round of fighting between Liberals and Conservatives.

After the departure of U.S. troops, National Guard Commander Anastasio Somoza Garcia outmaneuvered his political opponents--including Sandino, who was assassinated by National Guard officers--and took over the presidency in 1936. Somoza and his two sons who succeeded him maintained close ties with the United States. The Somoza dynasty ended in 1979 with a massive uprising led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which had conducted a low-scale guerrilla war against the Somoza regime since the early 1960s.

The FSLN established an authoritarian dictatorship soon after taking power. U.S.-Nicaraguan relations deteriorated rapidly as the regime nationalized many private industries, confiscated private property, supported Central American guerrilla movements, and maintained links to international terrorists, including the Colombian guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The United States suspended aid to Nicaragua in 1981. The Reagan administration provided assistance to the Nicaraguan resistance and in 1985 imposed an embargo on U.S.-Nicaraguan trade.

In response to both domestic and international pressure, the Sandinista regime entered into negotiations with the Nicaraguan resistance and agreed to nationwide elections in February 1990. In these elections, which were proclaimed free and fair by international observers, Nicaraguans elected as their President the National Opposition Union candidate, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, widow of the slain journalist and editor of the daily newspaper La Prensa, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro.

During President Chamorro's nearly 7 years in office, her government achieved major progress toward consolidating democratic institutions, advancing national reconciliation, stabilizing the economy, privatizing state-owned enterprises, and reducing human rights violations. Despite a number of irregularities--which were due largely to logistical difficulties and a baroquely complicated electoral law--the October 20, 1996 presidential, legislative, and mayoral elections were judged free and fair by international observers and by the groundbreaking national electoral observer group Etica y Transparencia (Ethics and Transparency). This time Nicaraguans elected former Managua Mayor Arnoldo Alemán, leader of the center-right Liberal Alliance. The first transfer of power in modern Nicaraguan history from one democratically-elected president to another took place on January 10, 1997, when the Aleman government was inaugurated. Aleman’s administration was marred by graft and corruption. At the end of his term, Aleman entered into a political pact (el Pacto) with Daniel Ortega to divide control of state organs of power between them.

Presidential and legislative elections were held in November 2001. Enrique Bolaños of the Liberal Constitutional Party was elected to the Nicaraguan presidency on November 4, 2001, defeating FSLN candidate Daniel Ortega by 14 percentage points. The elections, characterized by international observers as free, fair and peaceful, reflected the maturing of Nicaragua's democratic institutions. During his campaign, President-elect Bolaños promised to reinvigorate the economy, create jobs, fight corruption, and support efforts against terrorism. Bolaños was inaugurated on January 10, 2002. His administration’s efforts were severely blunted by repeated political attacks from the left and the right as Bolanos sought to remove traditional sources and bases of political patronage and corruption.

FSLN candidate Daniel Ortega won the presidential elections of November 5, 2006 with 38% of the vote, defeating a divided opposition. ALN candidate Eduardo Montealegre garnered 29%; Jose Rizo of the PLC received 26%; and MRS' Edmundo Jarquin polled fourth with 6%. Ortega was inaugurated on January 10, 2007.

In early 2008 Eduardo Montealegre was forced out of the ALN and formed his own movement, Vamos con Eduardo (VCE), and ran for mayor of Managua. The VCE and PLC formed an electoral alliance to compete under the same banner during the November 2008 municipal elections. Those elections were marred by a number of serious irregularities and denounced domestically and internationally as severely flawed. Official results released by the Supreme Electoral Council awarded 105 of Nicaragua’s 153 municipalities to the ruling FSLN.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Nicaragua is a constitutional democracy with executive, legislative, judicial, and electoral branches of government. In 1995, the executive and legislative branches negotiated a reform of the 1987 Sandinista constitution, which gave extensive new powers and independence to the legislature--the National Assembly--including permitting the Assembly to override a presidential veto with a simple majority vote and eliminating the president's ability to pocket-veto a bill. Changes to the constitution in 2000 allowed for the president to be elected with 35% of the popular vote so long as there was a five percentage point difference between the first and second place candidates.

The president and the members of the unicameral National Assembly are elected to concurrent 5-year terms. The National Assembly consists of 92 total deputies (90 elected from party lists drawn at the departmental and national levels, plus the outgoing president and the candidate who finishes second in the presidential race).

The Supreme Court supervises the functioning of the still largely ineffective, often partisan, and overburdened judicial system. In 2000, as part of the Ortega-Aleman pact, the number or Supreme Court justices was increased from 12 to 16. Supreme Court justices are elected to 5-year terms by the National Assembly. Led by a council of seven magistrates, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) is the co-equal branch of government responsible for organizing and conducting elections, plebiscites, and referendums. The magistrates and their alternates are elected to 5-year terms by the National Assembly. Constitutional changes in 2000 expanded the number of CSE magistrates from five to seven and gave the PLC and the FSLN a freer hand to name party activists to the Council, prompting allegations that both parties were politicizing electoral institutions and processes and excluding smaller political parties.

Nicaragua's constitution guarantees the freedom of speech, peaceful assembly and association, religion, and movement within the country, as well as foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. In the run-up to the November 2008 municipal elections the government made attempts to limit some of these rights, including limiting free and open discussion in the media and academia, and peaceful assembly. The constitution prohibits discrimination based on birth, nationality, political belief, race, gender, language, religion, opinion, national origin, and economic or social condition. All public and private sector workers, except the military, public safety workers, and police, are entitled to form and join unions of their own choosing, and they exercise this right extensively. Nearly half of Nicaragua's work force, including agricultural workers, is unionized, and most Nicaraguan unions are affiliated with either the FSLN or liberal political parties. Workers have the right to strike. Collective bargaining is becoming more common in the private sector.

Political Parties
The 2006 national elections resulted in the following distribution of the 92 seats in the National Assembly (installed January 9, 2007): FSLN--38; PLC--25; ALN--24; MRS--5. Subsequently, the political parties shuffled their composition and the makeup of the Assembly is now FSLN--38; PLC--20; BDN--17; ALN--6; MRS--3; APRE--1, and Independent--7.

Principal Government Officials
President--Jose Daniel Ortega Saavedra
Vice President--Jaime Morales Carazo
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Samuel Santos
Minister of Finance--Alberto Jose Guevara Obregon
Minister of Industry and Commerce--Orlando Solorzano Delgadillo
Minister of Government--Ana Isabel Morales
Secretary General of the Ministry of Defense--Ruth Tapia Roa
Chief of the Armed Forces--General Omar Halleslevens
Chief of Naval Forces--Rear Admiral Juan Estrada
Ambassador to the United States--Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Alcides Montiel
Ambassador to the United Nations--Maria Eugenia Rubiales de Chamorro
Ambassador to the Organization of American States--Denis Ronaldo Moncada Colindres

Nicaragua maintains an embassy in the United States at 1627 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-939-6570). Nicaragua has consulates in Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco.

ECONOMY
With a gross domestic product (GDP) of $6.37 billion and a per capita income of $1,123 in 2008, Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. From 1991 to 2006, three successive administrations focused on free market reform as the path to recovery from 12 years of economic freefall under the Sandinista regime and civil war of the 1980s. They achieved macroeconomic stability, cutting inflation from 33,500% in 1988 to 9.45% in 2006, and dramatic debt reduction through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, the Multilateral Debt Reduction Initiative, and a $1 billion commercial debt buyback led by the World Bank. By the end of 2007, external debt as a percentage of GDP was 59.1%, down from more than 400% in 1990. Since 1995, real economic growth averaged 4.0%.

The pace of economic growth slowed to 3.2% in 2008, as an above-average agricultural harvest was offset by rising wages, food prices, and energy costs. Inflation, which had been in the single digits for several years, was 13.8% in 2008. Official unemployment was 4.9% in 2007, but most do not believe this reflects reality. Sixty percent of all workers earn a living in the informal sector, where underemployment is high and the data is not clear. In 2008, Nicaraguans received $818 million in remittances from abroad, the majority from the United States. This equals almost 13% of GDP.

Because Nicaragua has abundant arable land and water resources, agriculture will always be an important component of the economy. About a third of GDP revolves around agriculture, timber, and fishing. Opportunities exist in food and timber processing and preparation for export. Currently, most agriculture is small-scale and labor intensive. Livestock and dairy production have seen steady growth over the past decade and have taken the greatest advantage of free trade agreements. Many export products, especially coffee, have benefited from the recent rise in international commodity prices. Manufacturing accounts for about 10% of GDP and the construction sector another 4%. Services (banking, transportation, trade, retailing, and tourism) account for about half of GDP.

Social indicators for Nicaragua have improved since 1991. The current population of Nicaragua is 5.8 million; life expectancy at birth is 72.9 years. Nicaragua has steadily improved prenatal care coverage and made impressive gains in infant mortality, dropping from 52 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1991 to 25 per 1,000. The country has successfully controlled the spread of many diseases by achieving and maintaining high vaccination coverage (85%) and introducing vaccines, for example, the MMR vaccine in 1998, the pentavalent vaccine in 1999, and the rotavirus vaccine in 2006. Since 2004, infectious disease has fallen from fourth to fifth place among the leading causes of death, with the number of such deaths down nearly 50% since 1996.

In 2007, the Minister of Education reported school enrollment as 86.5%. Nicaragua's score on the United Nations Human Development Index rose by 40% from 1990 to 2004 (from 0.496 to 0.698). Despite these statistical gains, the benefits of economic development have been uneven. Blackouts, water shortages, and high energy prices disproportionately affect the poorest in the population. Over 50% of Nicaraguans fall below the poverty line and poverty reduction, including advances in health education in rural areas, has been slow.

Since taking office again in January 2007, President Daniel Ortega has maintained the legal and regulatory underpinnings of the market-based economic model of his predecessors, but has rejected what he terms the "neo-liberal economic model," and along with it capitalism and the United States, which he refers to as the imperial power. Instead, he has allied himself with the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), whose other members include Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Honduras, Venezuela, and several Caribbean island nations. In 2008, Ortega declared publicly that socialism was the only path for Nicaragua if the country wanted to alleviate poverty. During an April 2009 television appearance in Cuba, he declared that multi-party systems were “destructive” to a country’s social fabric.

Nicaragua signed a 3-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in October 2007. As part of the IMF program, the Government of Nicaragua agreed to implement free market policies linked to targets on fiscal discipline, poverty spending, and energy regulation. The lack of transparency surrounding Venezuelan bilateral assistance, channeled through state-run enterprises rather than the official budget, has become a serious issue for the IMF and international donors. On September 10, 2008, with misgivings about fiscal transparency, the IMF released an additional $30 million to Nicaragua, the second tranche of its $110 million PRGF. The flawed municipal elections of November 2008 prompted a number of European donors to suspend direct budget support to Nicaragua, a move that created a severe budget shortfall for the government. This shortfall, in turn, caused the Government of Nicaragua to fall out of compliance with its PRGF obligations and led to a suspension of PRGF disbursements. The IMF is currently in negotiations with the Government of Nicaragua to reinstate disbursements.

Under Ortega, Nicaragua has stayed current with the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which entered into force for Nicaragua on April 1, 2006. Nicaraguan exports to the United States, which account for 59% of Nicaragua’s total exports, were $1.7 billion in 2008, up 45% from 2005. Textiles and apparel account for 55% of exports to the United States, while automobile wiring harnesses add another 11%. Other leading export products are coffee, meat, cigars, sugar, ethanol, and fresh fruit and vegetables, all of which have seen remarkable growth since CAFTA-DR went into effect. Leading Nicaraguan exports also demonstrated increased diversity, with 274 new products shipped to the United States in the first year. U.S. exports to Nicaragua, meanwhile, were $1.1 billion in 2008, up 23% from 2005. Other important trading partners for Nicaragua are its Central American neighbors, Mexico, and the European Union (EU). Nicaragua is negotiating a trade agreement with the EU as part of a Central American bloc.

Despite important protections for investment included in CAFTA-DR, the investment climate has steadily worsened since Ortega took office. President Ortega's decision to support radical regimes such as Iran and Cuba, his harsh rhetoric against the United States and capitalism, and his use of government institutions to persecute political enemies and their businesses, has had a negative effect on perceptions of country risk, which by some accounts has quadrupled since he assumed office. The government reports foreign investment inflows totaled $506 million in 2008, including $123 million in telecommunications infrastructure and $120 million in energy generation. There are over 100 companies operating in Nicaragua with some relation to a U.S. company, either as wholly or partly-owned subsidiaries, franchisees, or exclusive distributors of U.S. products. The largest are in energy, financial services, textiles/apparel, manufacturing, and fisheries. However, many companies in the textile/apparel sector, including a $100 million U.S.-owned denim mill, have shuttered during the past 12 months due to falling demand for these goods in the United States.

Poor enforcement of property rights deters both foreign and domestic investment, especially in real estate development and tourism. Conflicting claims and weak enforcement of property rights has invited property disputes and litigation. Establishing verifiable title history is often entangled in legalities relating to the expropriation of 28,000 properties by the revolutionary government that Ortega led in the 1980s. The situation is not helped by a court system that is widely believed to be corrupt and subject to political influence. Illegal property seizures by private parties, occasionally in collaboration with corrupt municipal officials, often go unchallenged by the authorities, especially in the Atlantic regions and interior regions of the north, where property rights are poorly defined and rule of law is weak. Foreign investor interest along the Pacific Coast has motivated some unscrupulous people to challenge ownership rights in the Departments of Rivas and Chinandega, with the hope of achieving some sort of cash settlement.

The U.S. Embassy's Economic and Commercial Section advances U.S. economic and business interests by briefing U.S. firms on opportunities and challenges to trade and investment in Nicaragua, encouraging key Nicaraguan decisionmakers to work with U.S. firms, helping to resolve problems that affect U.S. commercial interests, and working to change local economic and trade ground rules in order to afford U.S. firms a level playing field on which to compete. U.S. businesses may access key Embassy economic reports at http://nicaragua.usembassy.gov/econ.html.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
The 1990 presidential election placed Nicaragua in the ranks of Latin American democracies. Nicaragua pursues an independent foreign policy. A participant of the Central American Security Commission (CASC; more commonly known by its Spanish acronym “SICA"), Nicaragua also has taken a leading role in pressing for regional demilitarization and peaceful settlement of disputes within states in the region. Nicaragua has submitted two territorial disputes--one with Honduras and the other with Colombia--to the International Court at The Hague for resolution. The dispute with Honduras was resolved by The Hague in October 2007, and Presidents Ortega and Zelaya (Honduras) met on October 8, 2007 to recognize the finality of the decision. In December 2007, the Hague issued an interim decision on the Colombia-Nicaragua dispute that granted sovereignty of the San Andres archipelago to Colombia, but urged both parties to work toward a mutually satisfactory resolution regarding the surrounding waters. Also in 2007, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador reached an agreement on fishing rights in the Gulf of Fonseca.

There have also been disagreements between Nicaragua and Costa Rica along the San Juan River regarding navigational rights. In September 2002 Nicaragua and Costa Rica signed a 3-year agreement to defer presenting these issues before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for resolution. However, after the two governments failed to reach an amicable solution, Costa Rica filed a case before the ICJ. In July 2009, the ICJ issued a decision which reaffirmed Nicaragua’s sovereignty over the entire river, but granted Costa Rica the right to navigate the river for traditional subsistence fishing and normal commercial activities, including tourism. It rejected Costa Rica’s assertion that official law enforcement activities were also permitted under the various relevant, bilateral agreements. While the case was pending, the two countries had jointly funded community development projects in the border area. It is unclear what effect the ICJ decision will have upon these activities.

At the 1994 Summit of the Americas, Nicaragua joined six Central American neighbors in signing the Alliance for Sustainable Development, known as the Conjunta Centroamerica-USA, or CONCAUSA, to promote sustainable economic development in the region.

Nicaragua belongs to the United Nations and several specialized and related agencies, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO), UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Labor Organization (ILO), and UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC). Nicaragua also is a member of the Organization of American States (OAS), the Non-aligned Movement (NAM), the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI).

U.S.-NICARAGUAN RELATIONS
U.S. policy aims to continue supporting the consolidation of the democratic process initiated in Nicaragua with the 1990 election of President Chamorro. The United States has promoted national reconciliation, encouraging Nicaraguans to resolve their problems through dialogue and compromise. It recognizes as legitimate all political forces that abide by the democratic process and eschew violence. U.S. assistance is focused on strengthening democratic institutions, stimulating sustainable economic growth, and supporting the health and basic education sectors.

Section 527 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1994 and 1995, prohibits U.S. assistance and support to any country in which U.S. citizens have not received adequate and effective compensation for outstanding claims against the government for confiscated property, as is the case in Nicaragua. The law provides authority to the President, which is delegated to the Secretary of State, to waive the prohibition when it is in the national interest. In July 2009, the Secretary issued the 16th waiver of the Section 527 prohibition based upon Nicaragua's progress in resolving U.S. citizen claims.

Other key U.S. policy goals for Nicaragua are:

  • Improving respect for human rights and resolving outstanding high-profile human rights cases;
  • Developing a free market economy with respect for property and intellectual property rights;
  • Increasing the effectiveness of Nicaragua's efforts to combat transborder crimes, including narcotics trafficking, money laundering, illegal alien smuggling, international terrorist and criminal organizations, and trafficking in persons; and
  • Reforming the judicial system and implementing good governance.

Since 1990, the United States has provided over $2 billion in assistance to Nicaragua. About $489 million of that was for debt relief, and another $488 million was for balance-of-payments support. The U.S. also provided $94 million in 1999, 2000, and 2001 as part of its overall response to Hurricane Mitch. In response to Hurricane Felix, the United States provided over $15 million in direct aid to Nicaragua to support humanitarian relief and recovery operations from the damage inflicted in September 2007. Aside from funding for Hurricanes Mitch and Felix, the levels of assistance have fallen incrementally to reflect the improvements in Nicaragua. Assistance has been focused on promoting more citizen political participation, compromise, and government transparency; stimulating sustainable growth and income; and fostering better-educated and healthier families. The Millennium Challenge Corporation's (MCC) 5-year, $175 million compact with the Republic of Nicaragua entered into force on May 26, 2006. The Millennium Challenge Compact sought to reduce poverty and spur economic growth by funding projects in the regions of León and Chinandega aimed at reducing transportation costs and improving access to markets for rural communities; increasing wages and profits from farming and related enterprises in the region; and attracting investment by strengthening property rights. In December 2008, the MCC Board of Directors suspended $62 million of Nicaragua’s compact following actions by the Government of Nicaragua before, during, and after the November 9 municipal elections that the Board determined were inconsistent with MCC eligibility criteria. On June 10, 2009, the MCC Board decided to terminate those portions of the compact that had previously been suspended, including road work that had not yet been contracted and a property regularization project. Previously contracted road work and a rural business development project will continue as originally planned.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Robert J. Callahan
Deputy Chief of Mission--Richard M. Sanders
Economic/Commercial Counselor--David A. Krzywda
Political Counselor--Christopher T. Robinson
Management Officer--Donna Chick-Bowers, Acting
Public Affairs Officer--Kathleen Boyle
Consul General--Lara Harris, Acting
Labor Attache--Erik Black
Regional Security Officer--Christopher R. Rooks
MILGROUP--Lt. Col. Michael Regan
Drug Enforcement Administration--Michael J. Sanders
USAID Mission Director--Sharon Carter, Acting
Peace Corps Director--George Baldino
APHIS--vacant
Defense Attache--MAJ Kyle Easy, USMC, Acting
Millennium Challenge Corporation--Steven Marma, Resident Country Director

The U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua is located at Kilometer 5.5, Carretera Sur, Managua (tel. country code 505, phone 2252-7100). Letters to the Embassy mailed in the U.S. should be addressed to American Embassy Managua, DPO AA 34021. Regular hours of operation are M-F from 7:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. local time. Visit Embassy Managua’s Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Managua-Nicaragua/Embajada-de-Estados-Unidos-Managua/73006545785

Other Contact Information
U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Trade Information Center
14th and Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 1-800-USA-TRADE

American Chamber of Commerce in Nicaragua
Apartado Postal 202
Managua, Nicaragua
Tel: (5052) 67-30-99
Fax: (5052) 67-30-98

Caribbean/Latin American Action
1818 N Street, NW, Suite 310
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202-466-7464
Fax: 202-822-0075
 



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