The area of present-day Nicaragua was presumably already from 30,000 BC. settled. When Christopher Columbus discovered the east coast of the country on his third voyage in September 1502, he met indigenous tribes, whose ancestors from 3000 BC. immigrated (Nahua, Chibcha). Believing to be on the Indian coast, Columbus called the indigenous people “Indios” or “Indians”. The name of the country probably goes back to one of these Indian chiefs (Nicarao).
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Under the leadership of Pedrarias D¨¢vila and Francisco de Hern¨¢ndez de C¨®rdoba, the Spaniards conquered the area of present-day Nicaragua against the resistance of the Indians in the 1920s. In 1524, the cities of Granada and Le¨®n were founded in the Pacific lowlands. According to AbbreviationFinder, the indigenous population was quickly decimated by imported diseases or forced labor over the next few decades. From about the middle of the century Nicaragua was annexed to the Spanish general captain of Guatemala and was under its administration.
In the first half of the 17th century British colonists settled on the Caribbean coast and signed contracts with the Misquito tribe. In 1687 the Kingdom of Mosqu¨ªtia was proclaimed. From 1841 Great Britain established a protectorate here.
Way to independence
In 1821, both Guatemala and Nicaragua became independent from the colonial power of Spain, both states initially joined the Mexican Empire, and from 1823 Nicaragua belonged to the Central American Federation (United States of Central America). Nicaragua resigned from the federation torn apart by the dispute between liberal and conservative forces in 1838 and declared its sovereignty on April 30 of this year. In the young state, too, the conflict between liberals (whose center was the city of Le¨®n) and conservatives (Grenada) led to violent clashes. Liberal forces brought the American William Walker into the country as the leader of their armed forces, he conquered Grenada in 1856 and appointed himself president. Only a year later he had to flee the country again.
The first half of the 20th century
In 1893 the leader of the Liberals, Jos¨¦ Santos Zelaya, came to power in Nicaragua. He ruled the country dictatorially until 1909, among other things he succeeded in reintegrating the British territories on the Caribbean coast into Nicaragua and improving the country’s infrastructure by building railroads. Nicaragua was of geopolitical importance to the United States for a number of reasons, especially after the Panama Canal, which ended in 1914, was built. With US help, the anti-American Zelaya was removed from office in 1909. President Adolfo D¨ªaz asked the United States for military aid in 1912 when the conflict between liberal and conservative forces broke out again in Nicaragua and numerous government overturns occurred. US naval forces intervened in the fighting on the side of the conservatives and established themselves at bases. The United States bought the rights from Nicaragua to build a waterway through Nicaragua (as a connection between California and the US east coast), and the establishment of US military bases on the west and east coast of Nicaragua was also approved.
In 1925 the United States temporarily withdrew its troops from Nicaragua, but returned to the country after the civil war broke out again. Resistance movements had formed against the US presence, including the Sandinista led by Augusto C¨¦sar Sandino. In 1933 the American troops left Nicaragua, a strong man in the state became the leader of the National Guard, Anastasio Somoza Garc¨ªa, who had his political rival Sandino murdered in 1934. The USA-friendly Somoza was elected President in 1937 and held this position until 1956. After his assassination attempt, his sons Luis Somoza Debayle (until 1963) and Anastasio Somoza Debayle (until 1979) continued to rule the Somoza clan.
In 1945 Nicaragua became a member of the United Nations and joined the Organization of American States (OAU) three years later. In 1962 the oppositional “Sandinista National Liberation Front” (Frente Sandinista de Liberaci¨®n Nacional / FSLN) was founded in Nicaragua and began its fight against the dictatorship of Somoza. After an earthquake disaster in which the capital Managua was largely destroyed in 1972 and over 10,000 people were killed, the government declared a national emergency. When the Somoza clan embezzled around half a billion US dollars from international donations, popular resistance grew. The civil war broke out in 1978.
In July 1979, the “Sandinista Liberation Front” under the leadership of Daniel Ortega took over government in Nicaragua. The possessions of the Somoza clan (most recently they owned around a quarter of the country) and large US operations were nationalized. The revolutionary government’s socialist reforms and pro-Cuban and pro-Soviet attitudes met with resistance from both the Nicaraguan population and the United States. In 1983 there were bitter fights between Sandinists and the so-called “Contras”, who were mostly Somoza supporters and were supported by the US CIA.
Even after Sandinist Daniel Ortega won the 1984 presidential election, the fighting between government forces and the Contras continued. A comprehensive US trade embargo against Nicaragua brought the country’s already weak economy to the brink of ruin. Around three quarters of the population lived in bitter poverty. In 1988 there was a dialogue between the Nicaraguan government and the leadership of the Contras and an armistice was agreed. A peace plan was signed in 1989 and the Contras, which had previously operated from Honduras, returned to Nicaragua.
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Development after the civil war
In February 1990, free elections were held in Nicaragua. The Sandinista were beaten and a center-right coalition under President Violeta Barios de Chamorro and the opposition alliance “Uni¨®n Nacional Opositora” took over the government. The US then lifted its trade embargo. A number of reforms have been carried out. In addition to an economic reconstruction program, government troops have been reduced from an estimated 100,000 to 15,000. In the next presidential election in 1996, Arnoldo Alem¨¢n Lacoyo, leader of the right-wing alliance “Alianza Liberal” (AL), prevailed against a total of 21 opposing candidates. The strongest of his competitors was former President Daniel Ortega. The AL became the strongest party in the simultaneous parliamentary elections.
When he came to power in 1997, Arnoldo Alem¨¢n Lacoyo spoke out in favor of improving the living conditions of the population and reducing the high level of public debt. But the aftermath of devastating hurricane “Mitch”, which left devastation across Central America in late October 1998, dramatically worsened the economic situation. Hurricanes repeatedly caused massive damage in the years that followed.
In 2001, Enrique Bolaños Geyer, the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista (PLC) candidate, became the country’s new head of state. Sandinist Ortega failed for the third time in his effort to become president of the country again. When he took office in 2002, President Enrique Bolaños announced the fight against corruption and the consolidation of democracy in the country. Like his predecessor, he wanted to maintain good relations with the United States. In the 2006 elections, however, Daniel Ortega prevailed against the incumbent president and has been head of state and head of government again since January 2007. The so-called “People’s Councils” created by President Ortega against the will of the parliamentary majority have further widened the internal political division.
The President of Nicaragua is elected by the people for a term of five years, an immediate re-election was not possible according to the constitution. Daniel Ortega Saveedra lodged an appeal against this regulation in 2009 and was granted the right to a new candidacy by the Supreme Court. The result of the decision was violent protests. In January 2014, Parliament approved a constitutional reform that allowed the president an unlimited number of terms.
Nicaragua joined the Central American Customs Union in 2009. The government hopes that this will, among other things, increase foreign direct investment.