Date of Award

Spring 2006

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Studies

Committee Director

Francis Adams

Committee Member

Regina Karp

Committee Member

Lucien Lombardo


In January 1990 the Nicaraguan electorate chose to abandon the failing Sandinista Revolution in favor of the economic neoliberal rubric. However, since 1990 Nicaragua's economy has been stagnant. Today it is one of the four poorest states in Latin America having been one of the wealthiest before 1975.

The purpose of this work is to explain Nicaragua's poor performance since 1990. The hypothesis is that domestic independent variables are central to recovery and are the underlying causes of Nicaragua's failure to fully recover.

The abuses of the Somozas' ancien régime before the 1979 revolution are well documented; less well documented is the continuation of those practices. However, abuses such as pervasive corruption alone do not explain the failure. This work treats four major domestic independent variables as the collective determinant: the Roman Catholic Church, organized labor, the role of the business community and its instruments, and civil society with the residual effect from the FSLN period. Each variable has its own impact on outcomes in Nicaragua, and the failure has defied the predictions of neoliberal proponents and the international effort to implement neoliberalism. This work validates that domestic independent variables have a greater effect than external independent variables as determinants for recovery.

Methods of research include an examination of available data and literature, and a review of events that have affected internal variables. Field research in Nicaragua was conducted to further investigate the dynamics of the domestic independent variables. Follow-up to field study was accomplished through further research and electronic contact with primary sources.

The contribution to scholarship is the treatment of the internal variables as primary determinants for recovery. Highly indebted poor countries" (HIPC) states are a first-order project of powerful states that recognize that a renewed strategy must be developed. This work provides insight and direction toward that end.