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.