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Gustavo Fuchs takes a look at this country, nicknamed the ‘Central American Switzerland’.

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Gustavo Fuchs takes a look at this country, nicknamed the ‘Central American Switzerland’

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★★★ <br>

Gini index: 0.49 (2015, compared to 0.32 OECD average and 0.50 Latin America average). Inequality has increased in recent years. Tax evasion accounts for 8% of the GDP and fiscal revenue comes mainly from regressive taxes.




80 years (Nicaragua 75, US 79). Higher life expectancy than the US despite the gulf in wealth.


Some parties in congress are trying to close the National Women’s Institute (INAMU) which has advanced policies in support of women’s social and economic rights. Abortion, even though legal since 1970, is not practised due to social stigmatization.


Press and political freedom is generally good, though media ownership is highly concentrated. The main restriction to freedom comes from crime. The country has become a strategic hub between South and North America for drug cartels and organized crime has increased in recent years.


Homosexuality has been legal since 1971, anti-gay discrimination is outlawed and the government has advanced various reforms intended to grant equal rights to the LGBTIQ community. However, homophobia prevails in large sections of the population.

★★★★★ EXCELLENT <br>

★★★★ GOOD<br>

★★★ FAIR<br>

★★ POOR<br>


President Carlos Alvarado Quesada.
GNI per capita $10,840 (Nicaragua $2,100, US $56,810).<br>

<em>Monetary unit</em>: Colón<br>

Main exports: Medical instruments, banana (plantain), tropical fruits, orthopaedic equipment and coffee.<br>

Since the mid-1990s, the country has opened its economy, signing bilateral and multilateral trade deals and betting on foreign capital as its main development strategy. This has created a disproportionate dependence on tax-free zones, designed to lure foreign transnationals. National producers and farmers have both suffered as a result. The US is still the main trading partner.

4.9 million, with an annual growth rate of 1.0%. People per square kilometre 95 (UK 271).
Infant mortality rate: 8 per 1,000 (Nicaragua 17, US 6). HIV prevalence rate 0.4%. Lifetime risk of maternal death 1 in 2,100 (US 1 in 3,800). <br>There is universal healthcare for citizens and foreigners alike.
The overall record is good but the country faces multiple challenges linked to its economic model. Environmental groups are demanding a moratorium on the expansion of pineapple plantations, which are highly destructive to the soil and require intensive use of agrochemicals. Large-scale trawling is endangering some native species such as rays and sharks.
Most of the population (over 80%) is mestizo (mixed indigenous and Hispanic), but there is a large Afro-Caribbean community (8%). The Bribri and Cabecar are the largest of eight indigenous groups, which together form 2.4% of the population.
Christian, including Catholic (70%), Evangelical (17%).
Spanish (official). A small percentage of indigenous communities speak Malecu, Cabecar, Bribri, Guaymi and Bocota. On the Caribbean coast large numbers speak Mekatelyu.
0.776, 66th of 188 countries (Nicaragua 0.645, US 0.920).

Country profile: Star rating: 

  • Income distribution
  • Life expectancy
  • Position of women
  • Freedom
  • Literacy
  • Sexual minorities
  • NI Assessment (Politics)