Nicaragua profile - Timeline

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A chronology of key events:

1522 - Spanish explorer Gil Gonzalez de Avila names Nicaragua after a local Indian chief, Nicarao.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Anastasio Somoza was the last member of the dynasty which ruled Nicaragua as a dictatorship from 1936 until it was overthrown in 1979

1523-24 - Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba completes conquest of Nicaragua.

17th-18th centuries - British plunder and extend their influence over the inhabitants of Nicaragua's Caribbean coast.

1821 - Nicaragua becomes independent, but is incorporated into the Mexican empire.

1823 - Nicaragua becomes part of the United Provinces of Central America, which also comprises Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.


1838 - Nicaragua becomes fully independent.

1860 - British cede control over the country's Caribbean coast to Nicaragua.

1893 - General Jose Santos Zelaya, a Liberal, seizes power and establishes dictatorship.

1909 - US troops help depose Zelaya.

1912-25 - US establishes military bases.

1927-33 - Guerrillas led by Augusto Cesar Sandino campaign against US military presence.

1934 - Sandino killed on the orders of the National Guard commander, General Anastasio Somoza Garcia.

Somoza family dictatorship

1937 - General Somoza elected president, heralding the start of a 44-year-long dictatorship by his family.

1956 - General Somoza assassinated, but is succeeded as president by his son, Luis Somoza Debayle.

1961 - Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) founded.

1967 - Luis Somoza dies and is succeeded as president by his brother, Anastasio Somoza.

1972 - Managua is devastated by an earthquake that kills between 5,000 and 10,000 people.

1978 - Assassination of the leader of the opposition Democratic Liberation Union, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, triggers general strike and brings together moderates and the FSLN in a united front to oust Somoza.

Sandinista revolution and US subversion

1979 - FSLN military offensive ends with the ouster of Somoza.

1980 - Somoza assassinated in Paraguay.

FSLN government led by Daniel Ortega nationalises land held by the Somoza family and turns it into cooperatives.

1982 - US-sponsored attacks by Contra rebels based in Honduras begin; state of emergency declared.

1984 - Daniel Ortega elected president; US mines Nicaraguan harbours and is condemned by the World Court for doing so.

1987-88 - Nicaraguan leadership signs peace agreement and subsequently holds talks with Contras.

1988 - Hurricane leaves 180,000 people homeless.

Post-Sandinista era

1990 - US-backed centre-right National Opposition Union defeats FSLN in elections; Violeta Chamorro becomes president.

1992 - Earthquake renders 16,000 people homeless.

1996 - Arnoldo Aleman elected president.

1998 - Hurricane Mitch causes massive devastation. Some 3,000 people are killed and hundreds of thousands are left homeless.

2000 - FSLN win Managua municipal elections.

2001 November - Liberal party candidate Enrique Bolanos beats his Sandinista rival Daniel Ortega, in presidential election.

2003 December - Former president Arnoldo Aleman jailed for 20 years for corruption. A year later he is transferred to house arrest. He is freed in 2009 amid controversy.

Debts cleared

2004 January - World Bank cancels 80% of Nicaragua's debt to that institution.

2004 July - Agreement with Russia writes off Nicaragua's multi-billion-dollar Soviet-era debt.

2005 April - Rises in fuel prices and the cost of living trigger weeks of sometimes violent street protests.

2005 June - The government and an opposition alliance, which controls Congress, become embroiled in a power struggle. OAS head Jose Miguel Insulza tries to mediate, without success.

2005 October - Political crisis eases as Congress agrees to delay constitutional reforms, which will weaken the powers of the president, until President Bolanos leaves office in 2007.

2006 April - Free trade deal with the US comes into effect. Congress approves the Central American Free Trade Agreement (Cafta) in October 2005.

2006 October - President Bolanos unveils plans to build a new ship canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

MPs approve a tough new bill that bans abortions, including in cases where the mother's life is at risk.

2006 November - Ex-president Daniel Ortega is returned to power in elections.

2007 October - The International Court of Justice in the Hague settles a long-running territorial dispute between Honduras and Nicaragua.

2009 October - Constitutional Court lifts ban on president seeking re-election.

2011 November - President Ortega is re-elected for another five-year term with a landslide victory.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
San Andres Island was confirmed as belonging to Colombia, not Nicaragua

2012 September - The government evacuates about 3,000 people from areas near the San Cristobal volcano, which suddenly began erupting.

2012 November - International Court of Justice in the Hague rules on a group of disputed Caribbean islands, confirming that they belong to Colombia, not Nicaragua. But it expands a disputed maritime-border in favour of Nicaragua.

2013 June - Congress approves a proposal for a canal linking the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans which would rival the Panama Canal. Environmentalists oppose the idea.

2013 August - Nicaragua says it will begin drilling for oil and gas off its Caribbean coast in an area that belonged to Colombia until last year.

2013 November - The Colombian government recalls its ambassador to Nicaragua for consultations amid a worsening row over maritime borders in the Caribbean.

2014 February - Changes to Nicaragua's constitution come into effect, 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.

2014 November - Nicaraguan officials announce that construction of a new $50bn canal linking the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans will start in December. The 278km (172 mile) waterway will be longer, deeper and wider than the Panama Canal. Opponents express alarm about the impact it may have on the environment and on poor communities.

2014 December - Work begins on canal project that will link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Thousands of people from villages along the proposed route stage protests.

2015 December - The International Court of Justice rules in favour of Costa Rica in its long standing border dispute with Nicaragua.

2016 February - The government frees 8,000 prisoners in an effort to ease overcrowding in Nicaragua's jails.

2016 September - Nicaragua grants political asylum the former president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, who is facing allegations of corruption and money laundering at home, charges which he denies.

2016 November - Daniel Ortega wins a third consecutive presidential term. His wife Rosario Murillo becomes vice-president.

2018 April - President Ortega scraps proposed changes to social security after they spark nationwide protests with several deaths.