U.S. Relations With Nicaragua

Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Fact Sheet
February 16, 2018


More information about Nicaragua is available on the Nicaragua Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.

U.S.-NICARAGUA RELATIONS

The U.S. government works in Nicaragua to promote prosperity, security, and democratic governance. The United States established diplomatic relations with Nicaragua in 1849 following its independence from Spain and the later dissolution of the federation of Central American states. Post-independence, the country experienced frequent periods of armed conflict, rebellion, and dictatorships. Diplomatic relations between the two countries have been severed or interrupted a number of times.

The recent deterioration of Nicaragua's democratic institutions is an area of significant concern for the United States. Previous elections have been marred by credible claims of irregularities, according to both Nicaraguan and international electoral observers. Space for civil society and the media to participate in public debate is rapidly closing. Political consolidation permeates all branches of the government. Several human rights concerns also remain, including on the limits of freedom of expression and freedom of press, the closing of civil society space, and allegations of excessive force by security officials. The United States has called on the Nicaraguan government to protect universal human rights, and has said that it will continue to support civil society and promote human rights in Nicaragua.

The Government of Nicaragua and the United States cooperate on law enforcement, counternarcotics, countering migrant flows, disaster preparedness and response, trade facilitation, and other matters in our mutual national interests. Increasing numbers of private American citizens, including retirees, missionaries, and businesspeople reside in Nicaragua, and there were approximately 290,000 tourist visits to Nicaragua by American citizens in 2016

U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America

U.S. assistance in 2017 was under five percent of total foreign aid received by Nicaragua. The United States is the only major international donor that does not provide assistance directly to the Nicaraguan government. The U.S. Strategy for Central America (Strategy) guides U.S. diplomatic efforts and foreign assistance in the region. The Strategy is a bipartisan, multi-year U.S. government plan covering all seven Central American countries (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama). The Strategy aims to secure U.S. borders and protect American citizens by addressing the security, governance, and economic drivers of illegal immigration and transnational crime, while increasing opportunities for U.S. and other businesses. The Strategy focuses on three overarching lines of action: 1) promoting prosperity, 2) enhancing security, and 3) improving governance.

U.S. Assistance to Nicaragua

U.S. assistance to Nicaragua promotes economic prosperity, strengthening of democratic governance, and the expansion of citizen security. U.S. government programs advance broad-based economic stability and growth through market-led food security and productivity, support the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises including those owned by vulnerable populations, promote greater use of the trade advantages provided by the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), and encourage socially and environmentally responsible sustainable growth. U.S. assistance also aims to increase citizens’ ability to engage in democratic governance through training for emerging democratic leaders, strengthening civil society engagement, supporting an independent media, and improving local governance. In under-governed areas of the Caribbean coastal region where drug trafficking and related criminal activity is rising, military-to-military prevention programs focus on education and life-skills development that support citizen security. By improving reading performance, enhancing work force and life-skills, and increasing community engagement to create positive and safe environments for at-risk children and youth, U.S. assistance aims to deter involvement in illicit activities and increase opportunities for Nicaraguans by working directly with civil society, local communities, and the private sector.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Nicaragua remains the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere despite averaging over four percent GDP growth annually since 1995. The United States is the dominant economic partner for Nicaragua, buying 51 percent of Nicaraguan exports, supplying 32 percent of its imports, providing 20 percent of investment, sending 54 percent of its remittances, and being the origin of 19 percent of its tourists, according to 2017 figures. Nicaragua’s economic strengths include its relatively low-cost and young labor force, significant tax-incentives for investors, and relative physical security. Its weaknesses include weak governmental institutions, deficiencies in the rule of law, and extensive executive control.

Nicaragua's Membership in International Organizations

Nicaragua and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization of American States, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

Bilateral Representation

Principal U.S. embassy officials are listed in the Department's Key Officers List.

Nicaragua maintains an embassy in the United States at 1627 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-939-6570).

More information about Nicaragua is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

Department of State Nicaragua Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Nicaragua Page
U.S. Embassy
USAID Nicaragua Page
History of U.S. Relations With Nicaragua
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
Investment Climate Statements
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Countries Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Export.gov International Offices Page
Millennium Challenge Corporation: Nicaragua
Library of Congress Country Studies
Travel Information