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1502 First known contact made with Europeans as Columbus sailed along the coast.

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

1522 Spanish explorers reached Lago de Nicaragua, and the Cities of Grenada and Leon were founded.

1523-24 Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba completed the Spanish conquest of Nicaragua.

During the 17th & 18th centuries The British plundered and extended their influence over the inhabitants of Nicaragua's Caribbean coast line.

1821 Nicaragua and several other Central American colonies gained their independence from Spain. Although Nicaragua became independent it was incorporated into the Mexican empire.

1822 Central American provinces annex themselves to an independent Mexican Empire under the control of Emperor Agustin I.

1823 Agustin I was overthrown. Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador formed the Central American Federation.

1838 Nicaragua became fully independent.

1847 The British Navy invaded San Juan del Norte.

1848 The British seized the Nicaraguan port at Rio San Juan.

1850 The United States and Great Britain signed the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty without Nicaraguan consent. They were granted access to an inter-oceanic trade route through Nicaraguan territory.

1855 North American William Walker along with a small band of followers was hired by the liberals in Leon to crush the conservative opposition which they did, and they eventually captured the city of Granada.

1856 William Walker seized the Nicaraguan presidency and sort U.S. annexation.  As president, his first decree was to sanction slavery in Nicaragua.

1857 William Walker was ousted from power by a coalition of liberals and conservatives and was eventually executed in 1860.

1860 The British took control over the country's Caribbean coast line.

1870 Coffee became the principle crop in Nicaragua and foreign investment was encouraged.

1870 Nicaragua protested the U.S. intervention of their country and demanded reparations for damages incurred during the 1855-armed conflict.

1893 A Liberal party revolt brought General Jose Santos Zelaya to power, who established a dictatorship over the country. While Zelaya was named president, Lewis Hanke a U.S. agent, intervened in support of the Conservative cause.

1894 A dispute with Britain over a port was resolved and Nicaragua reincorporated its land.

1907 U.S. war ships took possession of the Fonseca Gulf.

1909 U.S. funded conservative forces and troops helped depose Jose Santos Zelaya. Two U.S. mercenaries were shot with authorisation from the Nicaraguan Nationalist government. U.S. officials responded with the Knox Note, which legitimised North American intervention in Nicaraguan affairs. United States began periods of financial and military intervention from 1911 to 1933.

1910 U.S. troops imposed a puppet government in Nicaragua. Liberal President José Santos Zelaya was forced out of office and Adolfo Díaz was made the provisional president.

1912 Adolfo Díaz requested U.S. military assistance to control civil unrest. Nicaraguans resisted the U.S. occupation of their country and the national hero, Benjamin Zeledón died.

1912 to 1925 The U.S. established several military bases in the country.

1914 Nicaraguan president Emiliano Chamorro signed the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty with the U.S. administration. In exchange for $3 million, the U.S. acquired the right to build a canal across Nicaraguan territory, leased the Great and Little Corn Islands, and established a naval base in the Gulf of Fonseca. The Bryan-Chamorro Treaty provoked anti-North American sentiment and encouraged guerrilla warfare in Nicaragua. It also brought protests from other Central American countries.

1925 When U.S. forces withdrew from Nicaragua, it brought about a rebellion that saw the U.S.  Marines having to return to quell the disturbances.

1927 Liberal candidate General José Moncada won the presidential election that was monitored by U.S. officials. Moncada, who had fought against U.S. intervention, then entered into negotiations with Henry L. Stimson a personal envoy of President Coolidge.

1927 Augusto César Sandino, Commander of the Army to Defend the National Sovereignty, rejected Moncada's pact with Stimson. Sandino then launched a guerrilla war against U.S. forces in the country.

1927 to 1933 Guerrillas led by Augusto Cesar Sandino campaigned against the US military presence in the country.

1927 to 1934 After five hundred battles fought against the U.S. marines and sympathisers, Sandino successfully expelled the U.S. armed forces from Nicaragua.

1933 General Anastasio Somoza Garcia was named director of the non-partisan National Guard. While U.S. Marines withdrew from the country.

1934 The U.S. withdrew from Nicaragua leaving military officer Anastasio Somoza as Commander of the National Guard.

1934 Under the guidance of Arthur Bliss Lane the U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua, and orders from   the National Guard, Commander General Anastasio Somoza masterminded the assassination of Augusto César Sandino. Somoza went on to rule for over 20 years, amassing great personal wealth and land.

1936 Anastasia Somoza founded a brutal dictatorship, fuelled by U.S. funds, which was passed from father to son, to brother for over 43 years.

1941 Following the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Nicaragua entered World War II on 9th December 1941.

June 1945 Nicaragua was recognised as a charter member of the United Nations.

1948 Nicaragua joined the Organisation of American States. Anastasia Somoza dispatched an interventionist military force to Costa Rica.

1954 Anastasia Somoza sent mercenary forces to Guatemala to help U.S. forces oust socialist president, Jacobo Arbenz.

1955 Anastasia Somoza withdrew Nicaraguan troops from the Dominican Republic, who had intervened with a U.S. military operation.

1956 General Somoza was assassinated.  He was succeeded as president by his son, Luis Somoza Debayle. For four years close associates of the Somoza family then maintain political control of Nicaragua.

1960 The Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (F.S.L.N.) was founded to protest the continuing Somoza regime.

1960 The U.S. dispatched its Caribbean Fleet to Nicaragua and Guatemala to protect administrations from popular sector uprisings

1961 Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) was founded.

1961 U.S. mercenaries departed from Nicaragua's Puerto Cabezas and invade Playa Girón, Cuba. They suffer a historical defeat that became known as the "Bay of Pigs."

1966 Somoza Debayle made René Schick president. During a visit to the U.S. Schick volunteered Nicaragua to serve as an U.S. military base for invading Cuba?

1967 Anastasio Somoza was elected President of Nicaragua in 1967, succeeding his late brother Luis Somoza. Four years later Congress dissolved itself and transferred its constitutional authority to Somoza. After the 1972 earthquake Somoza declared martial law that lasted until 1977. That year the Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN), which had been founded after the Cuban revolution in 1961 by Carlos Fonseca, Tomas Borge, and Silvio Moraga, began a major offensive. The Somoza government was criticized by La Prenza editor Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, but he was assassinated on January 10, 1978. FSLN insurrections spread in Nicaraguan provinces and closed in on Managua. In November the United States blocked $65 million in loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because Somoza refused mediation; but in May 1979 they released the money. On June 20 captured ABC reporter Bill Stewart was shot in the head by a National Guard soldier while his crew filmed from a van. The US called for a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS), and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance urged a peacekeeping force. The FSLN got most of its weapons from Venezuela and Panama, as Cuba restrained itself to keep the US from opposing the revolution. On July 17, 1979 President Somoza fled to Miami.

Two days later an unusual combination of Marxist guerrillas and conservative businessmen took power in Managua, declaring the Government of National Reconstruction and promising a mixed economy, political pluralism, and a non-aligned foreign policy. Although the National Directorate was led by the moderate brothers Daniel and Humberto Ortega, the private sector opposed the Sandinistas' emphasis on social welfare with free education and health care, taxes on the wealthy, and agrarian reform. The US contributed about $20 million in relief aid to feed and house those displaced by the civil war. In February 1980 the US Congress appropriated $75 million in humanitarian aid for Nicaragua along with $5 million in military aid for its neighbors. In September, President Carter certified that Nicaragua was not harboring terrorists nor supporting them in other countries. Carter's moderate policy was designed to avoid the past mistakes with Cuba that had pushed Castro toward the Communists.

1967 Luis Somoza died and was succeeded as president by his brother Anastasio Somoza.

1967 Somoza Debayle established a military autocracy, silencing his opposition through the National Guard.

1967 Somoza Debayle offerd soldiers from his National Guard to fight in the Vietnam War.

1968 Nicaraguan functionaries sent by Somoza Debayle, helped overthrow Panamanian president Arnulfo Arias.

1971 Somoza Debayle steped down from government, but retained the post of Chief of the Armed Forces. A governing coalition was formed, which comprised of a Conservative and two Liberal executives.

1972 A devastating earthquake hit Nicaragua killing between 5,000 and 10,000 people. The Somoza regime mishandled the crisis as the majority of the relief funds were funnelled to the government.  As a result, another opposition party was founded the U.D.E.L. led by newspaper publisher Pedro Joaquin Chamorro. Daniel Ortega became the leader of the F.S.L.N. Martial law was declared, and Somoza Debayle was made Chief Executive of the Nicaraguan government. U.S. marines were sent to Nicaragua to insure Somoza's regime was instituted.

1974 Somoza Debayle was made president of Nicaragua.

1978 By the end of the decade, Nicaragua had experienced an economic slowdown and circumstances were ripe for a revolution. Joaquín Chamorro, editor of the anti-Somoza newspaper, La Prensa, was assassinated. The public held Somoza responsible. Led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (F.S.L.N.), anti-Somoza guerrilla force launched a violent uprising against the military. Nicaragua was plunged into a near civil war.

1978 Pedro Joaquin Chamorro was assassinated, resulting in public strikes and protests, some very violent. The revolt spread and even moderates sided with the FSLN to overthrow the Somoza regime. The U.S. and the Organisation of American States (O.A.S.) failed in negotiations and the U.S. suspended military aid to the region.

17th July 1979 The Somoza regime was overthrown and a Sandinista-led regime assumed power. Sandinistas immediately began disassembling former Somoza compounds and forming farming cooperatives. The Reagan-led U.S. scared by the "people's movement", sent $10 million to aid Contra forces. Somoza fled to Miami, and was later exiled to Paraguay.

20th July 1979 Sandinista forces entered Managua, and hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans celebrate their triumph.

The Sandinista government implemented social programs, which receive international recognition for their gains in literacy, health care, education, childcare, unions, and land reform. For the first time in its history, Nicaraguans were called to decide their own future. Then just as their struggle for increased self-sufficiency was reaping results, the U.S. Reagan-Bush administration began funding the Contra War. Their goal was to undermine the Sandinista regime. This ten-year war was fought at the cost of 60, 000 lives, 178 billion dollars, and the Nicaraguan infrastructure and economy.

1980 Debayle Somoza was assassinated in Paraguay.

1980 The political control was shifted to a five-member junta, which ruled Nicaragua from 1980 to 1985. Among the junta members was Violeta Chamorro, the widow of the late journalist, Joaquín Chamorro.

In April 1981 the Reagan administration canceled the $118 million in US aid to Nicaragua that Carter had obtained, and the President approved CIA director Bill Casey's plan to back anti-Sandinista insurgents based in Honduras. On November 16 Reagan approved $19.95 million to support these contra rebels. Without US assistance the Nicaraguans turned to others for help. The Soviet Union provided 20,000 tons of wheat; Libya loaned them $100 million; and Cuba sent $64 million in technical aid. In February 1982 Mexican president Jose Lopez Portillo gave a speech in Nicaragua and offered to mediate to help release the "three knots of tension" involving the United States and Nicaragua, the US and Cuba, and the El Salvador civil war. Many in the US Congress welcomed his assistance, and to mollify the public the Reagan administration reluctantly promised to cooperate. After anti-Sandinista Contras destroyed two major bridges on the border between Nicaragua and Honduras in March, the Sandinistas declared a state of emergency on March 15.

1982  The US government passes the Boland Amendment, which prohibited the United States from supplying Nicaraguan Contras with weapons.

1982 U.S. sponsored attacks by Contra rebels based in Honduras began and a state of emergency was declared.

In December 1982 US Representative Tom Harkin proposed an amendment that would prohibit US assistance to any group "carrying out military activities in or against Nicaragua."5 Edward Boland then offered a substitute with language acceptable to the Republicans, prohibiting funds "for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Nicaragua,"6 which passed the House 411-0. Yet the number of Contras the US was supporting increased from less than 2,000 in August 1982 to 7,000 by the following May. Thirty-seven members of the House wrote to President Reagan complaining that the Boland amendment was being violated, and on July 28, 1983 the House voted 228-195 to end covert operations against Nicaragua.

Throughout the second half of 1983 the US military conducted extensive exercises in the western Caribbean to intimidate Nicaragua, Salvadoran rebels, and Cuba. In September the Contras sabotaged Nicaragua's only coastal oil terminal, and the next month they attacked oil storage facilities. The House voted again 227-194 in the annual intelligence authorization to ban spending on covert operations against Nicaragua, and in November they passed a resolution in support of negotiations by the Contadora process mediated by Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama; but the conference committee added $24 million dollars for the Contras for the next fiscal year. Without telling the oversight committees, the National Security Council (NSC) increased the authorized strength of the Contras to 18,000.

Early in 1984 the CIA used a ship off Nicaragua's coast to help Latin American commandos lay mines in three Nicaraguan harbors; but the Senate Intelligence committee was not fully informed until March 27 after Dutch, Panamanian, and Soviet ships were damaged, and Nicaraguan fishermen were killed. Then a Liberian tanker and a Japanese ship were damaged, and speedboats with machine guns and explosives attacked the Corinto harbor. By overwhelming votes both houses of Congress voted to condemn the mining, 84-12 in the Senate. On May 24 the House voted 241-177 to prohibit aid to the Contras.

1984 Sandinista Daniel Ortega was elected president with 67% of the vote.  Nicaragua sued the U.S. government in World Court for mining three of its harbours, and in June 1986, the Court found the U.S. guilty of violating international law.

Since the Reagan administration could not get money from Congress for the Contras, they looked for other ways. On June 25 at a meeting with President Reagan, Vice President Bush, CIA Director Casey, National Security Advisor McFarlane, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Vessey, Secretary of State Schultz, and Secretary of Defense Weinberger, they discussed getting military support for the Contras from other countries. Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia had already offered a million dollars a month. Casey had got $10 million in arms that Israel had captured from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), though he had denied this when he testified before the House Intelligence Committee. Schultz and the White House chief of staff Jim Baker warned that such solicitations could be an "impeachable offense," and Reagan demanded secrecy, warning, "If such a story gets out, we'll all be hanging by our thumbs in front of the White House."7 Within days of Congress voting to end all funding for the Contras, more than $20 million was sent by Saudis into Contra bank accounts.

The Contadora nations were mediating peace talks at Manzanillo, and in September 1984 Nicaragua surprised many by agreeing to the proposed treaty that would ban foreign military bases, training, and exercises; it meant that US advisers would have to leave Honduras and El Salvador, and the Cuban advisers would have to leave Nicaragua. Reagan's diplomats found ways to delay the treaty, irritating Mexico. In October the Associated Press reported that a CIA murder manual called Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare had been sent to Contras, urging them to hire criminals to provoke violence at large urban demonstrations to cause deaths and make martyrs. They also advised them to "neutralize" (assassinate) judges, police, security officials, and Sandinista leaders. On November 2 Nicaragua held elections, and the Sandinistas won about two-thirds of the votes. Two days later Reagan won re-election with 59% of the popular vote.

After Reagan's large electoral victory in 1984, his administration imposed an economic embargo against Nicaragua on May 1, 1985. The next month Congress approved $27 million for the Contras but only in overt and nonlethal aid. However, a year later Congress authorized $100 million, including $70 million in military aid, for the Nicaraguan Contras to be administered by the CIA. Meanwhile during the restricted period from 1985 to 1986 Lt. Col. Oliver North, working for the National Security Council (NSC), had secretly raised $34 million dollars from other countries and $2.7 million from wealthy citizens as covert aid for the Contras, using an offshore enterprise managed by former general Richard Secord. By March 1985 the secret arms were flowing into Honduras. North thanked Guatemala for its help by promising military aid, and Salvadoran president Duarte let them use the Ilopango air base for logistics. Panama's General Noriega had been working for the CIA for two decades and allowed them to use Panama for training camps and his drug-smuggling planes for transporting the arms (and drugs to pay for them). China sent surface-to-air missiles through Guatemala, and Taiwan donated two million dollars. In 1986 the US secretly sold arms to Iran for a profit of $16.1 million, of which $3.8 million was spent for the Contras' war.

As early as 1985 the Central American Crisis Monitoring Team of the Institute for Policy Studies had published the pamphlet In Contempt of Congress, quoting official statements of Reagan officials with the counterevidence showing that they were lies, deceptions, and distortions. Former New York assistant attorney general Reed Brody documented with 145 sworn affidavits 28 cases of human rights violations by the Contras. Columnist Charles Krauthammer dubbed American support for anti-communist revolutions the Reagan Doctrine. Neither the United States nor El Salvador ever brought their allegations against Nicaragua to the Organization of American States or the United Nations. Yet Article 51 of the UN Charter requires any nation claiming the right of self-defense to lodge a formal complaint in the Security Council. The Reagan administration was apparently unwilling to have its actions scrutinized by international law. On June 25, 1986 the House passed Reagan's $100 million in aid for the Contras, and the next day the World Court announced that it had found the United States guilty of fifteen violations against international law for arming the Contras, attacking Nicaragua, mining their harbors, embargoing their trade, and violating their airspace. The US Government had withdrawn from the World Court and ignored its judgment.

1985 U.S. suspended talks with Nicaragua. President Reagan described the Contras as "freedom fighters" and initiated a trade embargo and economic sanctions. Although the U.S. Congress approved humanitarian aid for Contras.

On October 5, 1986 the Sandinista army shot down a plane carrying 10,000 pounds of ammunition and supplies for the Contras. The surviving crew member was the American Eugene Hasenfus, and evidence indicated it was a CIA operation. CIA Central America Task Force chief Alan Fiers lied to the House Intelligence Committee about it and was later convicted for that. His boss, CIA deputy director of operations Clair George, had instructed him to lie, and in 1992 George was also found guilty of making false statements to Congress. In November the press revealed that the Reagan administration had sold arms to Iran in order to get US hostages in Lebanon released. The Justice Department found a memo by North planning to use $12 million from the arms sale to purchase supplies for the Nicaraguan resistance forces. Attorney General Edwin Meese warned President Reagan that he could be impeached if he tried to cover it up; over the objection of CIA director Casey, both held a news conference to admit the "Iran-Contra" scandal. They announced that National Security Advisor John Poindexter and his assistant Oliver North were both dismissed. After a congressional investigation involving extensive public hearings that were televised, on November 18, 1987 the Iran-Contra committees reported that they found "secrecy, deception, and disdain for the law."8

Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright and President Reagan announced a proposal for a cease-fire on August 5, 1987, but two days later the presidents of all five Central American nations signed the Arias peace accord in Guatemala. Wright liked this peace plan, but Reagan considered it "fatally flawed," because it would allow Soviet aid to the Sandinistas to continue. In January 1988 the Sandinistas ended their state of emergency, allowed exiles to return, released some political prisoners, and agreed to negotiate directly with the Contra rebels. In February the US House of Representatives rejected the entire Contra aid package. In March the Sandinistas met with the Contras at Sapoas on the Costa Rica border and signed a sixty-day cease-fire. Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev suspended their military aid to Nicaragua at the end of 1988 and urged the Sandinistas to hold a fair election.

In February 1989 the five Central American presidents met in El Salvador and planned the voluntary demobilization, repatriation, and relocation of the Nicaraguan Contras and their families. In a meeting at Tela, Honduras in August the Central American leaders agreed not to allow insurgent forces in their territories, and an international commission to verify this was created, making it difficult for the Contras to operate out of Honduras and Costa Rica. During the 1980s the US had given the Contras $350 million to fight the Sandinistas. During the administration of George Bush the effort was shifted to influencing the next election in Nicaragua through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which contributed $11.6 million to the opposition. The CIA found $6 million to help the opposing coalition and even gave $600,000 to former Contra leaders for the election campaign. This paid off when Violeta Chamorro defeated Daniel Ortega 55% to 41% on February 25, 1990. During the campaign Ortega complained that his country was facing an election with a gun pointed at its head, because the Bush administration threatened that a Sandinista victory would mean more war. Nonetheless the Sandinistas accepted the election results and became the opposition party. The Contra war, financed and supplied by the US, had caused $15 billion damage in Nicaragua and killed about 30,000 people, not counting those who died from hunger and disease.

1990 The wife of assassinated politician Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, Violeta Chamorro, defeated President Ortega in presidential election. The U.S. opposed her election, claiming she had accepted Sandinista aid.

1990 The Contras sign a permanent cease-fire and then demobilize.

1991 The U.N.O. coalition governed Nicaragua. They severely cut government spending on successful, Sandinista-led social programs in such areas as health care and education. On 1st July, right wing sectors attack Sandinista land reforms, which had redistributed land to small scale farmers. The impact was felt right across the country.

1992 An earthquake caused wide spread destruction and left 16,000 people homeless.

1995 Constitutional reform of the 1987 Sandinista constitution gave more power to the legislature.

1997 Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo, the Liberal Party's conservative candidate, wins the presidential elections with 49 percent of the vote over F.S.L.N. opponent Daniel Ortega.

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

2000 The F.S.L.N. won the Managua municipal elections.

November 2001 The Liberal party candidate Enrique Bolaños beat his Sandinista party counterpart, former president Daniel Ortega, in the presidential elections.

March 2002 The Opposition Sandinista party re-elected Daniel Ortega as its leader despite his three consecutive defeats since 1990.

August 2002 Former president Arnoldo Aleman was charged with money laundering, and embezzlement during his term in office.

December 2003 Arnoldo Aleman was jailed for 20 years for corruption. A year later he was transferred to house arrest.

January 2004 The World Bank wiped 80% of Nicaragua's debt to the institution. President Bolaños said it was the best news for the country in 25 years.

July 2004 An agreement was reached with Russia to write-off Nicaragua's multi-billion-dollar Soviet-era debt.

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

June 2005 The government along with an opposition alliance, which controlled the Congress, became embroiled in a power struggle. The O.A.S. head Jose Miguel Insulza tried to mediate but without success.

October 2005 The political crisis eased as Congress agreed to delay constitutional reforms, which would weaken the powers of the president, until President Bolaños leaves office in 2007.

April 2006 A Free trade deal with the U.S. came into effect. Nicaragua's Congress approved the Central American Free Trade Agreement (Cafta) in October 2005.

2006 October President Bolaños unveiled plans to build a new ship canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  MPs approved a tough new bill that banned abortions, including cases where the mother's life is at risk.

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

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

July 2009 President Ortega announced plans to change the constitution to allow him to stand for another term in office.

October 2009 A constitutional court lifted a ban on a president seeking re-election.

November 2010 Tension with Costa Rica over their disputed river border.



Data in this colour are direct quotes taken from articles by Sanderson Beck

Articles of interest

Central American History by Sanderson Beck
U.S. Interventions in Latin America by Mark Rosenfelder