Countries we Work in


Nicaragua is working to overcome the after-effects of dictatorship, civil war and natural calamities, which have left it one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. It is now also struggling with the conflict associated with being on the drug trafficking route to the United States. Nicaragua has traditionally relied on agricultural exports to sustain its economy but the country’s meagre national wealth benefited mainly a few elite families of Spanish descent, in particular the Somoza family in the mid-20th century. This dynasty ruled the country with US backing between 1937 and the Sandinista revolution in 1979. The Sandinistas began redistributing property and made huge progress in the spheres of health and education, but the US launched a sustained campaign of embargoes and armed subversion.


Official Name: Republic of Nicaragua, República de Nicaragua

Capitol: Managua

Population: 6,192,000

Languages: Spanish

Size (km sq): 130,375

Year of Present State Formation: 1838



Gross Domestic Product (GDP, Nominal): $11.946 Billion

Per Capita Income (PPP Adjusted): $4,758 (CID)

GDP Growth: 4.20 (%)

Human Development Index (HDI): 0.61

Gini Index (Income Inequality): 40.50

Economic Grouping: Developing Country

Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 77 years (women)

Currency: gold cordoba


Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)

1990     2000     2010     2017

0.0        1.8        69.1     131.6


Individuals using the Internet (% of population)

1990     2000     2010     2017

0.0        1.0       10.0      24.6



Peoples: 18 (6% unreached)

Languages: 7 All languages

Religion                              Number              Pop %

Christians            5,666,228             97.3 %

Evangelicals       1,732,307             29.8 %



President: Daniel Ortega

Left-wing Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega made his political comeback in the November 2006 elections, having led Nicaragua through revolution and a civil war before being voted out in 1990. He cruised to victory in the 2016 presidential election to win a third consecutive five-year term. His wife Rosario Murillo won the position of vice-president. Independent election observers, as well as opposition figures and the US voiced deep concern about the fairness of the poll. Mr Ortega’s opponents have accused the former fighter of seeking to consolidate his family’s control over Nicaraguan politics by appointing relatives to key posts and side-lining opposition candidates. In 2014, his Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) pushed constitutional changes through Congress eliminating presidential terms limits. Mr Ortega has strong support from the country’s poor who account for more than a third of the population and have benefitted from his social programs. During his tenure, Nicaragua has experienced stable economic growth, poverty levels have fallen and low violence compared to elsewhere in Central America. However, he faced violent unrest in mid-2018 which was initially triggered by now-aborted reforms to the near-bankrupt social security system.



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


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


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


1838 – Nicaragua becomes fully independent.


1860 – British cede control over the country’s Caribbean coast to Nicaragua.


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.


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.


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.


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


1980 – Somoza assassinated in Paraguay.


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


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


1988 – Hurricane leaves 180,000 people homeless.


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


1992 – Earthquake renders 16,000 people homeless.


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


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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


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


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.




World Development Indicators database


El Salvador is the most densely-populated state on the mainland of the Americas. It is a small and highly-industrialized country. In the 1980s, El Salvador was ravaged by a civil war fueled by inequality between the overwhelming majority of the population and a small and wealthy elite that left around 70,000 people dead. A United Nations-brokered peace agreement ended the civil war in 1992, ushering in important political reforms, but the country still suffers from the legacy of a divided society. Gangs – known as “Maras” – are largely responsible El Salvador’s high murder rate. First emerged in the US in the 1980s, then spread to Central America as gang members were deported. “Mara Salvatrucha” and “18th Street” (or “Mara 18”)are the most notorious.

Official Name: Republic of El Salvador, República de El Salvador

Capitol: San Salvador

Population: 6,352,000

Languages: Spanish

Size (km sq): 21,041

Year of Present State Formation: 1841



Gross Domestic Product (GDP, Nominal): $25.495 Billion

Per Capita Income (PPP Adjusted): $7,720 (CID)

GDP Growth: 1.60 (%)

Human Development Index (HDI): 0.66

Gini Index (Income Inequality): 46.90

Unemployment: 6.30%

Economic Grouping: Developing Country

Life expectancy: 68 years (men), 77 years (women)

Currency: US dollar & Salvadoran colon


Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)

1990     2000     2010     2017

0.0       12.7     124.9    156.5


Individuals using the Internet (% of population)

1990     2000     2010     2017

0.0        1.2       15.9      29.0



Peoples: 13 (15% unreached)

Languages: 7 All languages

Religion                              Number              Pop %

Christians            5,861,501             94.6 %

Evangelicals       1,960,405             31.6 %



President: Salvador Sanchez Ceren. A former rebel leader, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, won the presidential run-off of March 2014 by a narrow margin. As presidential candidate of the left-wing Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN), he beat Norman Quijano of the conservative Arena party by less than a quarter of a percentage point, becoming the first former guerrilla to lead the Central American country. In his inauguration speech, he promised to fight corruption and violence, and “to serve as president of all Salvadoreans”.



1524 – Spanish adventurer Pedro de Alvarado conquers El Salvador.


1540 – Indigenous resistance finally crushed and El Salvador becomes a Spanish colony.


1821 – El Salvador gains independence from Spain. Conflict ensues over territory’s incorporation into Mexican empire under Creole general Agustin de Iturbide.


1932 – 30,000 people are killed during the suppression of a peasant uprising led by Agustine Farabundo Marti.


1961 – Right-wing National Conciliation Party (PCN) comes to power after a military coup.


1969 – El Salvador attacks and fights a brief war with Honduras following the eviction of thousands of Salvadoran illegal immigrants from Honduras.


1977 – Guerrilla activities by the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) intensify amid reports of increased human rights violations by government troops and death squads; General Carlos Romero elected president.


1979-81 – Around 30,000 people are killed by army-backed right-wing death squads. An ever-growing memorial wall lists those identified as being among the estimated 70,000 civil war victims


1980 – Archbishop of San Salvador and human rights campaigner Oscar Romero assassinated; Jose Napoleon Duarte becomes first civilian president since 1931.


1991 – FMLN recognized as political party; government and FMLN sign UN-sponsored peace accord.


2001 January, February – Massive earthquakes kill 1,200 people and render another one million homeless.


2006 March – El Salvador is the first Central American country to implement a regional free trade agreement with the US.


2009 March – Former Marxist rebel Mauricio Funes of the FMLN party wins presidential elections, marking the first time in two decades that a leftist president has been voted in.


2012 December – Human Rights Court for the Americas finds El Salvador guilty over the civil war massacre at El Mozote in 1981.


2017 January – Police say the country has gone 24 hours without any murders – a rare occurrence in a nation plagued by gang warfare.




World Development Indicators database


The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, a former French colony. The country is a major tourist destination. This, along with free-trade zones, are the country’s major employer and key sources of revenue, replacing dependence on sugar, coffee and other exports. The Dominican Republic is inhabited mostly by people of mixed European and African origins. Western influence is seen in the colonial buildings of the capital, Santo Domingo, as well as in art and literature. African heritage is reflected in music.

Official Name: Dominican Republic, República Dominicana

Capitol: Santo Domingo

Population: 10,602,000

Languages: Spanish

Size (km sq): 48,671

Year of Present State Formation: 1865



Gross Domestic Product (GDP, Nominal): $62.790 Billion

Per Capita Income (PPP Adjusted): $10,326 (CID)

GDP Growth: 2.00 (%)

Human Development Index (HDI): 0.70

Gini Index (Income Inequality): 47.20

Unemployment: 15.00%

Economic Grouping: Developing Country

Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 77 years (women)

Currency: Dominican peso


Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people):

1990     2000     2010     2017

0.0        8.2       89.8      81.4


Individuals using the Internet (% of population):

1990     2000     2010     2017

0.0        3.7       31.4      63.9



Peoples: 18 (11% unreached)

Languages: 8 All languages

Religion                               Number             Pop %

Christians            9,647,742             94.4 %

Evangelicals          931,234               9.1 %



President: Danilo Medina

Danilo Medina Sanchez was re-elected as president in May 2016. He first came to power on 16 August 2012, succeeding three-times President Leonel Fernandez Reyna. He is an economist and long-standing member of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). Until 2015 the constitution barred him from running for a second straight term, but a constitutional change allowed him to seek re-election in 2016. He has controversially overseen the relaxation of abortion laws and the introduction of a naturalization law which led to the descendants of thousands of Haitian immigrants becoming stateless.



1492 – Christopher Columbus visits the island, which he names Hispaniola, or “Little Spain”.


1496 – Spaniards set up first Spanish colony in Western hemisphere at Santo Domingo, which subsequently serves as capital of all Spanish colonies in America.


1697 – Treaty of Ryswick gives western part of Hispaniola island (Haiti) to France and eastern part (Santo Domingo – the present Dominican Republic) to Spain.


1863-64 – Spain withdraws from, and annuls its annexation of, the Dominican Republic following a popular revolt.


1865 – The second Dominican Republic proclaimed.


1906 – Dominican Republic and US sign 50-year treaty according to which the US takes over the republic’s customs department in return for buying its debts.


1916-24 – US forces occupy the Dominican Republic following internal disorder.


1924 – Constitutional government assumes control; US forces withdraw.


1930 – General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina establishes personal dictatorship following the overthrow of President Horacio Vazquez.


1937 – Army massacres 19,000-20,000 Haitians living in areas of the Dominican Republic adjacent to Haiti.


1962 – Juan Bosch, founder of the leftist Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) elected president in the first democratic elections for nearly four decades.


1963 – Bosch deposed in military coup and replaced by a three-man civilian junta.


1965 – Some 30,000 US troops invade the Dominican Republic following a pro-Bosch uprising.


1966 – Joaquin Balaguer, a Trujillo protege and former leader of the Reformist Party (later to become the centre-right Christian Social Reform Party (PRSC)), is elected president.


1978 – Silvestre Antonio Guzman (PRD) is elected president and proceeds to release some 200 political prisoners, ease media censorship and purge the armed forces of Balaguer supporters.


1979 – Two hurricanes leave more than 200,000 people homeless and cause damage worth 1 billion dollars as the economy continues to deteriorate due to high fuel prices and low sugar prices.


1985 – IMF-prescribed austerity measures, including price increases for basic foods and petrol, lead to widespread riots.


Joaquin Balaguer elected president in 1966, 1970, 1974, 1986, 1990 & 1994. Steps down in 1996 after massive public demonstrations


1998 – Hurricane George causes widespread devastation.


2010 October – Dominican Republic tightens border restrictions to prevent cholera spreading from Haiti.


2012 October – Hurricane Sandy causes extensive damage.




World Development Indicators database

2017 October – A report by the campaign group Transparency International lists the Dominican Republic as having the second highest bribery rate in Latin America and the Caribbean after Mexico.


Colombia has substantial natural resources and its culture reflects the indigenous Indian, Spanish and African origins of its people. The country has also been ravaged by a decades-long violent conflict involving outlawed armed groups, drug cartels and gross violations of human rights, although, since 2002, the country has been making significant progress towards improving security. The fourth largest country in South America and one of the continent’s most populous nations, Colombia has substantial oil reserves and is a major producer of gold, silver, emeralds, platinum and coal. It also has a highly stratified society where the traditionally rich families of Spanish descent have benefited from this wealth to a far greater degree than the majority mixed-race population, providing a ready constituency for left-wing insurgents.

Official Name: Republic of Colombia, República de Colombia

Capitol: Bogotá

Population: 46,245,297

Languages: Spanish

Size (km sq): 1,141,748

Year of Present State Formation: 1810



Gross Domestic Product (GDP, Nominal): $387.692 Billion

Per Capita Income (PPP Adjusted): $11,730 (CID)

GDP Growth: 4.20 (%)

Human Development Index (HDI): 0.71

Gini Index (Income Inequality): 55.90

Unemployment: 10.50%

Economic Grouping: Developing Country

Currency: Peso

Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 78 years (women)

Currency: Peso


Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)

1990     2000     2010     2017

0.0        5.6       96.9     126.8


Individuals using the Internet (% of population)

1990     2000     2010     2017

0.0        2.2       36.5      62.3



Peoples: 93 (4% unreached)

Languages: 83 All languages

Religion                              Number              Pop %

Christians            43,716,645          94.4 %

Evangelicals       3,460,847               7.5 %



President: Ivan Duque

Ivan Duque was elected in June 2018 after campaigning on a ticket to rewrite the peace deal signed with the former rebel group FARC. A lawyer with a degree in economics, Mr Duque represents many Colombian voters who were outraged by concessions given to the former rebels, including reduced sentences for those who confessed to their crimes. He was inaugurated a few days after his 42nd birthday.



1525 – Spain begins conquest of Colombia.


1536-38 – Spain establishes the settlement of Santa Fe de Bogota, which subsequently becomes known as Bogota, the current capital; becomes part of the Spanish vice-royalty of Peru.


1718 – Bogota becomes the capital of the Spanish vice-royalty of Nueva Granada, which also rules Ecuador and Venezuela.


1819 – Simon Bolivar defeats Spanish at Boyaca. Republic of Gran Colombia formed with Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela.


1829-30 – Gran Colombia dissolved when Venezuela and Ecuador split off, leaving present-day Colombia and Panama a separate state known as Nueva Granada.


1899-1902 – “The War of the Thousand Days”: around 120,000 people die in civil war between Liberals and Conservatives. Panama becomes an independent state.


1948-57 – 250,000-300,000 killed in civil war.


1964 – Leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) and Maoist People’s Liberation Army (EPL) founded.


1966 – Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, the current largest guerrilla grouping) set up.


1978 – President Julio Turbay (Liberal) begins intensive fight against drug traffickers.


1982 – President Belisario Betancur (Conservative) grants guerrillas amnesty and frees political prisoners.


1985 – Eleven judges and 90 other people killed after M-19 guerrillas force their way into the Palace of Justice; Patriotic Union Party (UP) founded.


1989 – M-19 becomes legal party after reaching peace agreement with government.


1993 – Pablo Escobar, Medellin drug-cartel leader, shot dead while trying to evade arrest.


1998 November – Pastrana grants FARC a safe haven the size of Switzerland in the south-east to help move peace talks along. The zone is off-limits to the army.


2000 July – Pastrana’s “Plan Colombia” wins almost US$1 billion in mainly military aid from the US to fight drug-trafficking and rebels who profit and protect the trade.


2001 June – FARC rebels free 359 police and troops in exchange for 14 captured rebels. FARC accused of using safe haven to rearm, prepare attacks and conduct drug trade.


2008 March – A Colombian cross-border strike into Ecuador kills senior FARC rebel Raul Reyes and sparks a diplomatic crisis with both Ecuador and Venezuela.


2008 July – Colombian army rescues the country’s highest-profile hostage, Ingrid Betancourt, held in captivity for six years by FARC. She was among 15 hostages freed in an operation in the southern-central region of Guaviare.


2016 September – The government and FARC sign a historic peace accord that formally brings to an end 52 years of armed conflict.





World Development Indicators database