Since 1973 the territory (comarca) of Cabo Gracias a Dios has been incorporated into the department of Zelaya.
According to Homosociety, between the 1963 and 1971 censuses the residents they rose from 1,524,027 to 1,911,543, with an average annual increase of 3.2%. In 1975, according to an estimate, there were 2,318,000, with an average density of 17 residents. per km 2. However, this average density is of little significance, because the vast department of Zelaya, which covers more than half of the state’s surface, has just 2 residents per km 2, against 180 of that of Masaya and 140 of that of Managua. The capital in 1973 had 409,810 residents; on December 23 of the previous year it had been devastated by an earthquake that had caused more than 10,000 victims, the destruction of about three quarters of the buildings and the temporary removal of a large part of the population. This catastrophe had serious repercussions on the Nicaraguan economy, because Managua, in addition to hosting about a fifth of the country’s total population, centers 40% of manufacturing plants and more than 30% of the workers in these plants. Other important cities are León (over 90,000 residents) and Matagalpa (70,000).
Rural activities employ 56% of the active population and provide 27% of the gross national product. The main product is cotton, cultivated with modern techniques in the plains of the Pacific side: production, which increased enormously in the 1950s and 1960s, then decreased somewhat (1,200,000 q of fiber in 1975), but cotton still remained the first item of the export. The second is coffee (416,000 q in 1975). The commercial crops of cane and sesame are also flourishing, and that of corn, destined for internal consumption.
The cattle are numerous (2,750,000 heads in 1974), especially on the Pacific side; meat ranks third among exported products.
Once the importance of gold and silver has diminished, the modest mining activity is based on the extraction of copper from the Rosita deposits, in the Zelaya department, which began in the early 1960s.
The installed power, significantly increased with the Río Tuma hydroelectric plant and with a thermoelectric plant built in 1967 in the Chinandega department, reached 260,000 kW in 1974; in the same year nearly 850,000,000 kWh were produced.
Despite the progress recorded after 1960, manufactures absorb only 12% of the active population and contribute only 19% to the gross national product. These are mostly plants that process agricultural products, but there is no shortage of chemical plants; an oil refinery has been operating in Managua for a decade. The trade balance is generally in deficit. Trade with the United States is still the most important, but in percentage it has dropped significantly due to the relations established in recent years with other Central American states (especially El Salvador) and with Japan; trade with the Federal Republic of Germany is also noteworthy. In 1974 the Nicaragua received 170,000 tourists.
The railways extend for 400 km; the road network, one of the best in Central America, about 7000 km long (of which almost 400 belong to the “Pan-American”) and is concentrated above all in the western half of the country; in 1974 53,000 cars were on the road. The main ports are on the Pacific, and Corinth stands out among them; Puerto Somoza is connected with Managua by an oil pipeline. The capital is served by the Managua-Las Mercedes international airport. The major problem of the Nicaragua consists in the existing imbalance between the demographic and economic vivacity of its western part and the stagnation of the eastern one.
History. – The government of L. Somoza (1957-63), son of the assassinated dictator, was troubled by internal plots and conflicts on the borders with Costa Rica and Honduras, where political refugees from the Nicaragua enemies of F. Castro. L. Somoza, educated in the USA and mindful of his father’s tragic end, mitigated the dictatorship by giving rise to a series of democratic measures: the gag was lifted from the press and the opposition officially admitted while the labor forces were authorized to organize. The economic situation improved somewhat especially with the increase in cotton production and the start of industrialization. The agrarian reform of 1963, hampered by the traditional structure founded on a class that held economic, military and political powers,
In February 1963 the elections for the presidency took place: no member of the Somoza family showed up, who nevertheless supported the candidacy of R. Schick Gutiérrez, who achieved a clear victory and, despite being considered the straw man of the Somoza (Anastasio, brother of former president Luís; he remained head of the National Guard, i.e. the armed forces), carried out his task in an honest way by forcing the capitalists to pay all taxes. Death interrupted Schick Gutiérrez’s mandate (August 1966). In February 1967 the elections brought the gen. A. Somoza Debayle, the third of the dynasty, familiarly known as “Tachito”, who two months later, following the sudden death of his brother Luís, inherited the immense patrimony of the Somoza family. L’ opposition led the president to renounce (September 1970) a draft constitutional amendment that would have allowed him to extend his mandate until 1977. The president agreed (March 1971) with the conservative party of F. Agüero, because the future elections led to the formation of a constituent assembly charged with drafting a new constitution and the designation of a triumvirate that would govern for thirty months. The popular consultation (February 6, 1972) went quietly and demonstrated once again the preponderance of the liberal party of Somoza, despite the efforts of the opposition supported by young people, the clergy and the guerrilla movement “Frente sandinista de liberación nacional” (which takes its name from General A. César Sandino, killed in 1934). On the night of December 23, 1972, a terrible earthquake struck the Nicaragua destroying Managua and causing tens of thousands of victims. The generous aid, particularly from the United States, for the reconstruction of the capital was managed by the powerful Somoza family, who were accused of having favored friends and the military. Despite popular discontent, the masses of marginalized and underclass confirmed their docility by electing once again (10 September 1974) A. Somoza to the presidency with 733,662 votes against 66,320 for the conservative party. The mandate will expire on May 10, 1981. A few days after taking office, Somoza had to resort to martial law to face a daring action by the guerrillas, who had captured numerous personalities as hostages during a lavish reception in the villa of the billionaire Quant.
Again in August-September 1978 the Nicaragua was paralyzed by an extended and prolonged revolt: the clashes began in Matagalpa, León, Jinotepe and were repeated in the capital. The student uprising found support in a military conspiracy; but almost all social strata (entrepreneurs, merchants, clergymen) agreed in the opposition. Instead, the Somoza dictatorship benefited from the fidelity of the Guardia Nacional and from the ideological variety of the oppositions, of revolutionary, liberal and even conservative orientation.