The past three decades have not been kind to Nicaragua. Hurricane Mitch, which struck Central America in 1998, washed away the meager strides that were made to revitalize the devastated economy that suffered a destructive revolution in the late 1970s and civil war in the 1980s. Despite the run of bad luck, hopes of a better future have loomed on the horizon. Nicaragua's geographic location made it a prime location for the construction of an inter-oceanic canal since the voyages of Columbus. Though the canal was ultimately built in Panama, the possibility of a rival canal being built in Nicaragua has been viewed as a long-term solution to the economic troubles of the hemisphere's second poorest country. More impressive strides have been made in the political realm. Nicaragua, once plagued by dictatorships, has now undergone three peaceful and democratic transitions of power since the 1990 elections and elected officials are beginning to be held accountable for abuses of power and corruption.
||5,570,129 (July 2006 est.)
||120,254 sq km
||slightly smaller than the state of New York
||Spanish 97.5% (official), Miskito 1.7%, other 0.8% (1995 census)
note: English and indigenous languages on Atlantic coast