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About Nicaragua: Chronology 1979 to the present

Part of celebratory poster for AMNLAE.

Part of celebratory poster for AMNLAE, the Luisa Amanda Espinosa Association of Nicaraguan Women, which was set up in August 1979. Luisa Amanda was the first woman to die in combat against Somoza’s National Guard.

Broad coalition of forces led by the Sandinistas (FSLN) overthrows the Somoza dictatorship that had ruled Nicaragua for the previous 43 years.
Photo by Fiona Macintosh.

Photo by Fiona Macintosh.

Sandinistas launch a UNESCO-acclaimed literacy crusade. Urban volunteers worked alongside peasants during the day assisting them in reading, writing, basic numeracy and other subjects in the evenings. Illiteracy was reduced from over 50% to 12% in under six months.
In an attempt to overthrow the Sandinista government, the Reagan administration begins financing and training the contras, a mercenary army based in Honduras.
The FSLN are victorious in the first free and fair elections in Nicuragua’s history, winning 67% of votes.
Sandinista National Directorate 1985.

Sandinista National Directorate 1985. Left to right: Tomás Borge, Victor Tirado, Humberto Ortega, Henry Ruíz, Daniel Ortega, Jamie Wheelock, Bayardo Arce, Carlos Núñez, Luís Carrión. Photo by Lou Dematteis

The Reagan administration declares that Nicaragua poses a threat to the national security of the US and uses this as a justification for imposing a trade embargo.
The International Court of Justice rules that the US war against Nicaragua is in violation of international law and orders the US to pay reparations. The US refuses to accept the jurisdiction of the Court or to pay the estimated £12 billion damage to the country’s infrastructure.
Contadora peace agreement signed by the presidents of the five Central American countries. This leads to negotiations between the Sandinista government and the contra.
Nicaraguan Constitution approved by the National Assembly after nation-wide consultation.
1981 to 1990
US backed contra war leads to the deaths of 30,000 on both sides.
1983 to 1987
Gradual recognition of indigenous demands for autonomy; peace negotiations and extensive public consultation culminate in the passing of a Law of Autonomy of the Atlantic Coast.
Violeta Chamorro.

Violeta Chamorro.

In a shock result the elections are won by the US-backed 14-party UNO coalition led by Violeta Chamorro. The FSLN becomes largest opposition party.
Demobilisation of 22,000 contras and 235,000 army personnel.
The US temporarily suspends aid to Nicaragua demanding the return of property to former owners.
1991 to 2002
Imposition of IMF/World Bank ‘free’ market economy which stabilises the economy but results in cutbacks in public expenditure, privatisation and a flood of foreign products that undermines local production. Unemployment reaches 70% and 40% of the population live in extreme poverty.
Presidential and National Assembly elections won by the right-wing Liberal Alliance. Arnoldo Aleman becomes President.
Photo taken at the inauguration in 1997. Credit: Tomas Starhardte.

Photo taken at the inauguration in 1997. Credit: Tomas Starhardte.

Nicaragua’s foreign debt stands at $6.4 bn, one of the highest per capita debts of any country in the world.
Zoilamerica Narvaez accuses her stepfather Daniel Ortega (Current President of Nicaragua and previously, between 1985 and 1990) of sexual abuse.
Liberal (PLC) government implicated in a scandal involving a plane used for the transportation of cocaine, the first of many such scandals to come to light.
A controversial pact is signed between the FSLN and the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC) to reform state institutions and electoral law.
Municipal elections result in considerable gains for the FSLN (Sandinista Party) in urban areas, where they win the main towns in 11 of the 17 departments, including Managua. However, the PLC (Constitutionalist Liberal Party) secures overwhelming victories in rural areas.
Nicaragua enters the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative along with 22 other countries. Providing that Nicaragua complies with IMF/World Bank structural adjustment conditionality, the country’s debts will be reduced from $6.4bn to $1.9bn over the next few years. The conditions, however, are the imposition of drastic cuts in public services.
President Bush nominates Cold War warriors Otto Reich and John Negroponte to key foreign affairs posts. In the 1980s Negroponte was US ambassador to Honduras, and Reich ran a government office that engaged in covert propaganda activities to undermine the Sandinista government.
Convicted Iran-contra criminal Elliot Abrams is appointed US National Security Council’s Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations.
With the FSLN ahead in the polls the Bush administration sends an envoy to Nicaragua to undermine the position of the FSLN in the forthcoming elections and to help forge an anti-Sandinista alliance. Post-9/11, the US intensifies the campaign declaring past, present and future opponents of US foreign policy as ‘terrorists’.
November 2001
Elections for the presidency, National Assembly and Central American Parliament. PLC candidate Enrique Bolaños wins the presidency with 56% of the vote. The second placed candidate was the FSLN - Convergence candidate Daniel Ortega with 42%.
President Enrique Bolaños attempts to bring corrupt members of the Aleman administration to trial. Arnoldo Aleman, ex-President and now President of National Assembly, uses his majority in the Assembly to block anti-corruption legislation.
December 2003
Aleman sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined $17 million for money laundering, embezzlement of public funds, fraud and electoral crimes. Between 2003 and 2007 this sentence is gradually relaxed to 'house' imprisonment, 'regional' imprisonment and 'within-country' imprisonment as a result of deals with the FSLN as part of the pact.
Jan 2004
World Bank cancels 80% of Nicaragua's debt.
Mayagna people of Awastingni win landmark ruling on land rights in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Bolaños government instructed to demarcate lands within the year.
October 2005
Political crisis eases as the National Assembly agrees to delay constitutional reforms, which will weaken the powers of the president until President Bolaños leaves office in 2007.
April 2006
The National Assembly approves the Dominican Republic - Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) with the US.
November 2006
Elections for the presidency, National Assembly and Nicaraguan representatives to the Central American parliament. Despite massive interference by the US, Daniel Ortega becomes president with 37% of the vote. The FSLN wins the largest number of seats in the National Assembly but does not have overall control.
January 2007
Miguel de Castilla Urbina, the new Minister of Education, announces that school fees will be abolished from 11 January. Previously 50% of all pupils had dropped out by the end of the school year because parents could not afford to pay the fees.
March 2007
President Ortega highlights the failure of the US to recognise the 1986 ICJ ruling declaring the 1980s contra war illegal and the refusal of the US to pay Nicaragua’s $17 billion claim for compensation.
March 2007
The National Assembly ratifies Nicaragua’s membership of ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America). Under the agreement Venezuela begins to provide Nicaragua with oil on more favourable terms than the international market.
March 2007
To meet increased enrolments, the Ministry of Education outlines plans for the development of school infrastructure, increases in teacher numbers, improvements in teacher training, and a programme of social action to tackle the causes of school absenteeism and dropout.
April 2007
As part of a health plan the government commits to a free health service starting with the end of fees for consultations and payments for medicines.
May 2007
Launch of Zero Hunger programme which the government hopes will benefit 75,000 campesinos in the first 5 years. The programme focuses on rural women includes environmental protection, prevention of deforestation, diversifying production and increasing self-sufficiency in food production.
Sandinista women celebrating the 30th anniversary.

Sandinista women celebrating the 30th anniversary.

January 2009
  • The government outlines plans to deal with the economic crisis, stressing the importance of Nicaragua’s membership of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America (ALBA)
  • The US and EU withhold aid from Nicaragua alleging fraud in the Nicaraguan municipal elections in November 2008.
  • Municipal elections on the Atlantic Coast won by FSLN
July 2009
Nicaragua government provides refuge to Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, illegally ousted in a coup. Celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the Nicaraguan revolution.
November 2011
FSLN wins presidential and National Assembly elections with 60% of the vote.

June 2013
National Assembly approves a concession for a Hong Kong Chinese Company HKND to build a US$50bn, 173 mile canal linking the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans that will be longer, deeper and wider than the Panama Canal.
2014 January
Amendments to the Nicaraguan constitution approved by the National Assembly state that women candidates must make up half of each party’s slate for all elected posts at national and local levels.
2014 February
Changes to Nicaragua's constitution come into effect removing presidential time limits, paving the way for President Ortega to run for a third consecutive term in 2016. The opposition argues the changes are a threat to democracy.
2015 June
Nicaragua ranked 12th out of 145 countries  in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2015 Global Gender Gap Report. This compares with 62nd place in 2006 making Nicaragua the country that has made the most progress on closing the gender gap.
2015 December
Nicaragua refuses to sign up to the Paris Climate Agreement arguing that the measures agreed are totally inadequate given the enormity of the problems facing the planet.  
With 72% of the vote on a 68% turnout, the FSLN secures a decisive victory in elections for the Presidency and National Assembly. Daniel Ortega wins a third consecutive presidential term with his wife Rosario Murillo as vice-president.  42% of deputies in the National Assembly are women.

Nicaragua has moved from 25% renewable energy to 52%, an achievement praised by the Inter-American Development Bank as ‘a model for the work on the shift to green energy.’
As a result of economic growth of 4 to 5% annually and successful investment in health, education and poverty reduction programmes, between 2009 and 2016 poverty fell from 42.5% of the population to 24% and extreme poverty from 14.6% to 6%
2017 September
Nicaragua signs up to the Paris Climate Agreement in solidarity with other countries highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, particularly small island states. At the same time the Nicaraguan government reaffirmed the country’s criticisms of the inadequacies of the Agreement.
2017 October
The US House of Representatives approves the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act, known as the NICA Act. If it gains Senate approval and is signed off by Trump, it will mean that the US can block all loans to Nicaragua from the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and other institutions. These loans run at US$250 million annually.
2017 December
Tourist numbers top two million for the first time making Nicaragua one of the fastest tourist destinations in the world.
2017 December
The NICA Act is introduced to the Senate increasing the possibility of it being approved against the wishes of the Organisation of American States, the Nicaraguan government, business sector, trade unions and ninety per cent of the population.