Nicaragua, though a small country (the 98th-largest globally) with a population of 5.9 million, has been central to the Western Hemisphere’s history, primarily because of the ease with which a transisthmian canal linking the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean can be constructed in its territory. The geopolitical struggles over Nicaragua’s unique natural resource have stirred violence, but not significant economic development. In fact, Nicaragua is currently the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Nicaragua gained independence from Spain as part of the Central American Federation in 1822 and became an autonomous country in 1838 when the federation collapsed. The next century was characterized by internal political instability and multiple interventions by the United States. This period ended with the military coup of Anastasio Somoza Garcia ...

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