Five police officers were killed in a notorious drug trafficking hub in Nicaragua, an unusual outbreak of violence in one of Central America's most peaceful nations.
According to a statement by police, on August 15, five officers attended a local assembly in order to discuss security issues in a small town in the municipality of Bluefields, along the Atlantic coast. This municipality is a significant transit zone for the transnational cocaine trade, as detailed in a special report by InSight Crime.
The police officers reportedly arrested an unidentified suspect who belongs to a criminal group that operates in the area. The criminal organization later ambushed the police and killed them in order to release the detainee, police said.
According to La Prensa, police authorities said they would hold a press conference to release more details about the incident but then canceled the event.
Naval forces and a police commission are investigating the incident, the newspaper reported, adding that none of the slain officers were from the Bluefields area.
The region previously registered a police massacre in 2004, when four officers were tortured and killed. Members of an alleged drug trafficking group known as the Reñazco family were investigated for allegedly hiring Colombian assassins to carry out the job. However, a court found them not guilty of the crime.
InSight Crime Analysis
Compared to neighboring countries Honduras or El Salvador, Nicaragua registers much lower levels of violence, and incidents that result in multiple police casualties are unusual. Still, given Bluefields' status as a key transit area for cocaine moving northwards in go-fast boats, the version of events provided by Nicaraguan authorities is a plausible scenario.
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However, it is worth questioning why police have not released more details about the incident or what criminal group may have been involved. In addition to the Reñazco family, there are multiple criminal actors that operate in Bluefields. These include the Tarzanes, based in the southern part of the area, and local businessman Francisco Zeledon, who allegedly runs a drug trafficking network in the region, although he has never been charged with a crime.
What's more, Nicaragua is thought to have a more top-down underworld in which high-level government officials oversee the movement of drugs and other illicit goods for a price. Should a criminal group seek to bypass these officials, there are consequences.
But until we have more official information, this case may be hard to decipher.