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

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...