Nicaragua's police chief has attributed a drop in the country's national homicide rate to an increase in police operations, although reports of criminal activity on the coastline paint a different picture of the country's security situation.
According to police, Nicaragua's homicide rate dropped from 12 to 11 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012, giving the country one of the lowest murder rates in Central America. Police chief Aminta Granera Sacasa said that, in addition, 48 of the country's 153 municipalities experienced no homicides in 2012, while the homicide rate was lower than the national average in 12 departments, as El Nuevo Diario reports.
Granera said that for the first time since the 1980s, police patrols have been implemented in each of the country's municipalities, with some 7,500 anti-crime operations carried out by police, and 15 domestic criminal groups reportedly dismantled.
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Historically, Nicaragua has struggled less with crime-driven violence than its Northern Triangle neighbors -- Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador -- which have some of the highest homicide rates in the world. Successful crime prevention schemes -- among other factors -- have allowed Nicaragua to maintain its status as one of the Central American countries most effective at combating insecurity.
The 2012 homicide and crime statistics appear to reflect this, but are not representative of the situation on Nicaragua's coastlines, where there are signs that drug trafficking -- long-present -- is now increasing and evolving. Nicaragua's Mosquito Coast is reportedly becoming an important transit site for drug flights between South America and Honduras, while the South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS) saw a 2011 homicide rate far above the national average, at 42.7 per 100,000 inhabitants, attributed largely to organized crime. Meanwhile, the recent dismantling of an international drug trafficking ring reportedly run by Mexico's Zetas indicates a more significant presence of transnational groups than previously thought.
[See InSight Crime's special on organized crime in Nicaragua]
Judicial corruption is also a major problem across the country, with judges and magistrates frequently granting concessions to suspected drug traffickers, including reduced prison sentences.