Authorities in Nicaragua have reported "isolated cases" of foreign gang members in the country, illustrating the growing prominence of street gangs throughout Central America.
Nicaragua's national police spokesperson, Fernando Borge (pictured), told news service ACAN-EFE that police had detected foreign gang members along its northern border with Honduras, and that authorities had either deported them or begun to deport them. The spokesperson said Nicaragua is prepared to detect any further incursion of foreign gang members.
Borge said the spread of foreign gang members across the region was "a threat," but added that "the important thing is to always maintain collaboration between all the police institutions."
Security analyst Roberto Orozco told ACAN-EFE that the foreign gang members cross into Nicaragua through its northern border with Honduras, and that they use the country as a temporary hideout rather than a base of operations.
InSight Crime Analysis
So far, Nicaragua has been spared much of the violence that has shaken the region. In 2010, the country had a murder rate of 14 per 100,000 people, compared with at least 40 for each of the Northern Triangle countries. Neighboring Honduras had a rate of 86 per 100,000, making it the most violent country in the world.
A variety of factors may explain this disparity. Nicaragua's socialist legacy means police have closer ties to their communities. In the past, Nicaraguan emigrants moved to Costa Rica and Miami over Los Angeles, with its pervasive gang culture. This meant fewer criminals were deported back home to start their own local cells, as happened with the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs in El Salvador.
However, the region's relative insecurity may also be due to the influence of the Mexican Zetas, who have steadily moved south through the region, consolidating their presence through partnerships with local youth gangs. Nicaragua may be the next step. Aminta Granera, Nicaragua's head of police, has already warned that gangs from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador may move south into Nicaragua. The incursion of foreign gangs to use Nicaragua as a hideout could be a sign that this process has begun.