Page last updated at 11:26 GMT, Sunday, 9 September 2012 12:26 UK

Nicaragua timeline

A chronology of key events:

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

Anastasio Somoza, president 1967-79, pictured in 1979
Anastasio, the last Somoza ruler
1967: Became president on death of his brother, Luis
1979: Resigned amid violent opposition to his rule
1980: Assassinated while in exile in Paraguay

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.

Daniel Ortega, being sworn in as president in 1985
Daniel Ortega: Sandinista leader confiscated Somoza land

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 assassinated 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.

Contra rebels
US-backed Contra rebels fought 10-year rebellion against Sandinistas

1980 - Somoza assassinated in Paraguay; FSLN government led by Daniel Ortega nationalises and turns into cooperatives lands held by the Somoza family.

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 Contra; 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.

Former President Aleman
Arnoldo Aleman: Ex-president was found guilty of fraud

2001 November - Liberal party candidate Enrique Bolaños beats his Sandinista party counterpart, former president Daniel Ortega, in presidential election.

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

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

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

Debts cleared

2004 January - World Bank wipes 80% of Nicaragua's debt to the institution. President Bolaños says it is the best news for the country in 25 years.

2004 July - Agreement with Russia to write-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.

Supporters of Daniel Ortega celebrate in Managua, November 2006
Daniel Ortega made a comeback as president in 2006

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

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

2006 October - President Bolaños 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 July - President Ortega announces plans to change the constitution to allow him to stand for another term in office.

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

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

2010 December - President Ortega's government was financed by proceeds of the drugs trade, according to Wikileaks' US diplomatic cables.

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

2012 September - The San Cristobal volcano erupts, prompting the government to order the evacuation of thousands of people northwest of Managua. A powerful earthquake strikes neighbouring Costa Rica at the same time.

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