Nicaragua's RAAN and RAAS regions

A report from a Nicaraguan think-tank analyzing crime and violence in one of the semi-autonomous zones on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast highlights the influence of the drug trade in the region, which helped bring about the country's highest incidence of crime in 2011.

The Nicaragua-based Institute of Strategic Studies and Public Policy (IEEPP) released the report analyzing crime rates in the municipality of Bilwi, the main city of the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN), one of two semi-autonomous, mostly indigenous areas on the coast.

The RAAN as a whole had a murder rate of 18 per 100,000 in 2011, far below that of the neighboring South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS), with 42.7. The study finds that the high rate in the RAAS was due in large part to the presence of local organized criminal groups -- the RAAN also had organized crime, but most killing were due to personal disputes, rather than being carried out by hitmen. However, the IEEPP points out that killings in the RAAN were often driven by drugs, consumption of which has been rising due to international trafficking through the region.

InSight Crime Analysis

Nicaragua's Caribbean coast has become an increasingly important route for cocaine being transported to the United States. An InSight Crime investigation last year highlighted the growth of crime and violence in the city of Bluefields, the capital of the RAAS, which is an emerging regional hub for the cocaine trade.

The IEEPP report found that Bilwi’s location on the main Caribbean drug route has made it an “obligatory step” for drug traffickers, who take advantage of its remoteness, and the network of rivers along the coastline. Other factors driving violence there are the predominantly young and urban population, high unemployment, and the existence of gangs and drug consumption.

The IEEPP report says that there has been more risk of sexual violence since drug traffickers have arrived, citing reports of cases of drug traffickers "purchasing" girls from indigenous communities for sums of up to $200.

The report says that street gangs, known as “pandillas” are responsible for some of the violence in the RAAN, although the study notes that it is hard to say how much, as this is not recorded in official figures. Gangs were, however, identified as the region's biggest security threat in a December 2011 survey by IIEEPP, and there are thought to be 17 pandillas active in Bilwi.

Local people told the IEEPP that the gangs get guns from traffickers, and carry out operations for them. The gangs also produce their own, home-made weapons.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.