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Diplomacy in Action



Nicaragua remains a major transit route for cocaine flowing from South America to the United States. The U.S. government estimates that more than 80 percent of the primary flow of the cocaine trafficked to the United States in the first half of 2014 transited through the Mexico/Central American corridor. Nicaragua faces limited law enforcement capabilities and sparsely populated regions that are difficult to police. Judicial corruption and political interference remain impediments to meaningful prosecution of narcotics trafficking. The unemployment rate on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua is over 55 percent. These factors provide a favorable environment for Drug Trafficking Organizations to transit drugs, weapons, and currency, as well as to establish clandestine warehouse facilities.

Despite these conditions, Nicaragua’s civilian and military law enforcement agencies did conduct counternarcotics operations in 2014 along the coasts, near the borders with Honduras and Costa Rica, and within the North and South Caribbean Autonomous Regions. Nicaragua remains primarily a transshipment point for illegal drugs, although the country also faces continued growth in both the domestic consumption of drugs and marijuana production.

In June 2012, due to ongoing concerns about fiscal transparency within the Government of Nicaragua, the U.S. Department of State ceased providing certain funds to Nicaraguan government agencies. This decision, mandated by U.S. law in place at the time, led to the phasing out of several bilateral programs. Direct engagement continues at minimal levels.


INL supports civil society programs to strengthen citizen security and diminish support for transnational criminal organizations within Nicaragua, particularly in the North and South Caribbean Autonomous Regions, where violent crime and drug trafficking pose a great risk. These programs build awareness of the criminal threat in Nicaragua and increase the capacity of at-risk youth, members of indigenous groups, women, and other vulnerable populations to resist the incursion of criminal networks into their communities.


  • A grant to Nicaraguan NGO the Foundation for the Autonomy and Development of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua led to the production of radio, television, and web materials, in English, Spanish, and the Miskito language, in order to reduce violence and drug use among at-risk youth in the North and South Caribbean Autonomous Region. The messages have reached more than 700,000 inhabitants of the region, and supported targeted engagements with more than 5,000 students in the Caribbean Coast. The project will reach more individuals through an expansion to other geographic areas in both the Caribbean and the Pacific sides. In addition, seven municipal committees and 31 neighborhood committees will be created and will be trained to promote local actions to prevent youth violence and drug abuse. Moreover, campaign materials in the Ulwa language will be added.
  • A grant to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville supported the creation of a civilian-led version of the upgraded Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program to be implemented by local organization Casa Nica. While it was originally planned to reach 300 students in its first phase, Casa Nica made arrangements with private schools and local non-governmental organizations to allow it to reach more than 1,500 students. Research conducted during the project will lead to publications on the effectiveness of this unique program tailored specifically to Nicaraguan youth.
  • Project Concern International (PCI) is also implementing a grant project to support youth leadership, community development, and civic education in 38 communities in the North Caribbean Autonomous Region. Along with several local partners, PCI has trained over 400 youth peer promotors, 100 journalists, and 75 local businesses in relevant citizen security topics. The project is helping 38 communities to implement citizen security plans developed by local committees formed during the project. PCI’s multi-faceted citizen security project will impact 60,000 people overall.

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