Experts have attributed a recent increase in violence Nicaragua’s semi-autonomous northeast region to the presence of organized crime and arms trafficking, something likely related to the area’s status as a stop off on drug trafficking routes.
The director of the Violence Prevention Center (CEPREV), Monica Zalaquett, said organized crime and arms trafficking are two factors that may have contributed to a recent rise in homicides in Nicaragua’s North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN), reported La Prensa.
At least 16 homicides have occurred in the region since July 15, among them a triple homicide in which three men were shot to death during a gold sale, reported El Imparcial, and National Police Chief Aminta Granera said on July 29 that crime levels had gone up this month in the region.
According to Zalaquett, many homicides in the region are carried out with firearms, and as a result of both legal and illegal arms circulation, firearms have largely replaced the use of machetes by local gangs.
Independent specialist Roberto Orozco said that both armed groups with political ends and drug trafficking structures contribute to regional insecurity. However, both the police and the army have denied the existence of armed groups with political aims in Nicaragua.
InSight Crime Analysis
Nicaragua’s RAAN and the South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS) are together responsible for much of the country’s violent crime. Though the RAAN homicide rate is significantly lower than that of the RAAS, at 18 per 100,000 compared to 42.7 per 100,000 in 2011, it is still significantly higher than the country’s overall homicide rate, which had dropped to 11 per 100,000 as of May this year.
Local criminal groups in both the RAAN and RAAS regions take advantage of go-fast boats of drug shipments moving up the Caribbean coastline. These groups provide a variety of services to the traffickers, including refueling, maintenance, harboring and intelligence. Some locals have also gotten rich off chance finds of cocaine that wash up on the beach in the RAAN’s Sandy Bay.
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Though organized crime has not until now often been the direct cause of violence in the RAAN, it contributes indirectly, with drug boat stopovers leading to local drug disputes and rising drug consumption. If arms trafficking is also a rising phenomenon in the region, this may well further fuel violent crime as weapons become more accessible.