Nicaragua: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, history, size, population, and government of the country Nicaragua

NICARAGUA

NITTY GRITTY

Location-Central America. Honduras is to the north, and Costa Rica to the south. The Caribbean is to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west.

How Created-Gil Gonzalez de Avila was the 1st Spaniard to reach Nicaragua, in 1522. The Spanish easily conquered the indigenous Indians with little bloodshed, taking from them their few gold possessions, and converting them to Christianity. In 1838 Nicaragua proclaimed its independence, with most of its present territory. Final boundary lines with Honduras and Costa Rica remained unsettled for a number of years.

Size-49,759 sq. mi. (128,875 sq. km.).

Population-2,350,000: mestizo, 70%; European (mostly Spanish), 17%; black, 9%; Indian, 4%. 83.1% Roman Catholic, 3.3% Protestant, 13.6% other.

Who Rules-In theory, Nicaragua is a republic with a 1950 constitution providing for a President and bicameral legislature. In reality, Nicaragua has been governed since the 1930s by the Somoza family or its representatives. Three members of the Somoza family have been President in the 20th century, and a great-grandfather of the current President held the office briefly in 1893 before being overthrown in a military coup. President today is Anastasio Somoza Debayle, who was 1st elected in 1967. Since he was constitutionally unable to succeed himself, he stepped down in 1972, handing the Government to a 3-man junta. Meanwhile, a constituent assembly drafted a new constitution which enabled Somoza to be reelected in 1974. However, the catastrophic earthquake that destroyed Managua on Christmas Eve, 1972, gave Somoza an excuse to step in and reassume control of the country. He named himself chairman of the National Emergency Committee, and functioned as President. President Somoza is a West Point graduate.

Who REALLY Rules-The Somoza family, backed by Nicaragua's top industrialists and merchants, have almost total control of the country. In addition, there is a long history of both direct and indirect U.S. intervention in Nicaraguan affairs. The U.S. supplies Nicaragua with considerable military assistance, and Nicaragua was the Central American jumping-off point for the CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

In addition to their political power, the Somozas control a vast fortune, estimated to be worth at least $150 million. They have interests in coffee, rice, beer, cattle and meat packing, banking and hotels, television and newspapers. They also control the country's only cement factory, its only roofing outfit, the national airlines, and the country's only shipping line, plus 20-25% of Nicaragua's arable land. Somoza has been accused of profiteering off the Managua earthquake by raising prices of vital commodities such as cement. One Nicaraguan official claimed the country is run as a "kleptocracy."

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