Nicaragua Government’s Alleged Drug Trade Ties Deepen with Arrest

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A government official tied to the ruling party in Nicaragua is alleged to have led a sophisticated drug trafficking ring that moved cocaine through Central America, adding to longstanding suspicions of official party links to the international drug trade.

Nicaragua’s Attorney General’s Office alleges that Francisco Sarria García, a representative of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen) on behalf of the governing Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional — FSLN), headed a network that moved cocaine and marijuana from Costa Rica through Nicaragua and into Honduras, La Prensa reported.

Also known by the alias “El Doc,” Sarria García led the group, which included two Guatemalans and a Colombian national living in Costa Rica. They used the Pacific coast town of Mechapa — separated from Honduras only by the Gulf of Fonseca — in the western department of Chinandega to receive drug loads and money. 

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Sarria García, who is also an Evangelical pastor, was allegedly in charge of organizing, planning and directing all of the group’s operations. The other members of his network were reportedly responsible for carrying out the group’s illicit operations on the ground, according to La Prensa.

Authorities have also linked Sarria García’s drug gang to a brutal September 2019 murder through alleged eye-witnesses and cell phone photos. The victim, Máximo Ríos, was supposed to deliver more than 250 kilograms of cocaine from Costa Rica to Sarria García in Mechapa in exchange for $60,000. But when the shipment never arrived, Ríos was tortured, murdered and dismembered, La Prensa reported.

InSight Crime Analysis

The drug trafficking allegations levied against a sitting member of President Daniel Ortega’s FSLN fuels longstanding suspicions of corruption and criminal ties within the ruling party.

In 2010, for example, a series of declassified WikiLeaks cables alleged that the Sandinista party had “regularly received money” from international drug traffickers to finance electoral campaigns in exchange for bribing judges to free traffickers caught by the police or military, according to the cable.

Former Interior Minister Ana Isabel Morales, once one of President Ortega’s most trusted officials, has also levied allegations that a number of judges have freed or reduced the sentences of some 1,000 traffickers arrested in Nicaragua, including members of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel.

SEE ALSO: Drug Suspect’s Arrest Raises Questions About Nicaragua Judicial Corruption

The latest arrest suggests that members of the party itself weren’t just connected, but personally involved in the drug trade. After the fall of Central America’s primary so-called “transportistas” — family clans like the Mendozas, Lorenzanas and Leones in Guatemala and the Cachiros in Honduras that played a vital role in moving drugs from South America through Central America and into Mexico — there are very few groups with the capacity and connections to run such successful operations.

It’s not yet clear what the scale of Sarria García’s drug trafficking operation was, but the fact that he had the ability to receive cocaine and marijuana from Costa Rica to then move into Honduras suggests he may have been an important player in the regional drug trade.

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