Nicaragua's government is facing growing calls to combat illegal livestock trafficking, an activity that frequently goes hand in hand with other types of organized crime in the region.
On June 17, several Nicaraguan business associations released a joint document calling for the government to investigate contraband cattle trafficking in “blind spots” along the country’s borders with Honduras and Costa Rica, reported ACAN-EFE.
Nicaragua's chamber of beef exports, known as CANICARNE, has said cattle rustling is costing the state $276 million in lost tax revenue, according to La Prensa (see La Prensa's graphic on the costs of cattle rustling below). Some 300,000 heads of cattle had been illegally removed from Nicaragua between 2013 to 2014, according to documents that CANICARNE reportedly sent to the government.
Meanwhile, CANICARNE president Raul Barrios has said that due to cattle rustling, Nicaragua's slaughterhouses are now processing 50 percent fewer cattle. The chamber's vice president has demanded a meeting with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to discuss the issue, saying the government's response to the problem has been inadequate.
According to a 2011 census, there are 4.12 million heads of cattle in Nicaragua.
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Cattle rustling is an ongoing problem in Nicaragua and one that merits more attention, especially given that elsewhere in the region, traffickers have used the cattle trade as a way to launder drug money -- sometimes even using the animals to smuggle drugs.
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Indeed, some Central American drug transport groups -- including the Leones in Guatemala; and the Cachiros and Valle Valle clan in Honduras -- started out as small-time cattle rustlers, stealing and reselling cattle in border regions. They then re-adapted these smuggling routes and contacts for the drug trade.
Cattle rustling in itself is partly a response to market forces, with smugglers seeking out higher prices for the animals in neighboring countries. Nicaraguan police have said they've identified rustlers from Mexico and El Salvador.