A cocaine seizure in Nicaragua's RAAN region

Communities in Nicaragua's Autonomous Region of the Northern Atlantic say that Honduras drug traffickers are harassing families in the area, another illustration of how a lawless area can affect multiple countries.

According to the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa, three communities near Nicaragua's northern border have reported that a group of Hondurans working in the drug trade have killed at least five people in the area. The murder victims, all members of a single family, were killed last December.

Residents in three villages near the border town of Waspan have said that since then, the Hondurans have frequently made trips into Nicaragua, crossing the river that separates the two countries. They have threatened to continue disrupting civilian life in the region by burning schools and churches, according to La Prensa's report.

A Nicaraguan military spokesman told the newspaper that the security forces were looking into the case.

InSight Crime Analysis

The report suggests that Honduras "transportistas" -- operatives hired to move cocaine shipments -- have an established presence along the Honduras-Nicaragua border, and are willing to use violence to keep the local communities in line. Honduras is currently thought to have several major transportista groups who contract proxies along the border to receive and move shipments of drugs for them. 

Irrespective of whether the victims were involved in the drug trade or not, it is important to note that many Nicaraguans also play a role in this trade. Nicaragua's Autonomous Region of the Northern Atlantic -- an autonomous department of about 32,000 square kilometers, known as by its Spanish acronym RAAN -- is a cocaine transit hub. The sheer size of the region -- it constitutes nearly a fourth of Nicaragua's total territory -- has made it difficult for the security forces to patrol. 

As documented in an InSight Crime report on the drug trafficking dynamics along Nicaragua's Caribbean coast, go-fast boats and fishing vessels loaded with cocaine move along the RAAN coastline, stopping at different points to refuel. This has helped build small groups of collaborators in beachside towns, who may provide traffickers with logistics or move the product themselves along very specific routes.