Nicaragua is a major transit country for drugs moving northward to the United States by land, sea, and air. Nicaragua’s poor economy, limited law enforcement presence in most parts of the country, and weak chemical control laws provide an opportune environment for drug trafficking organizations to establish clandestine labs without detection. Another challenge is that the Nicaraguan National Police lack adequate training or equipment for the safe handling of seized precursor chemicals. Nicaraguan law enforcement and military forces collaborate efforts to confront international trafficking and domestic drug abuse despite the government’s often hostile stance toward the United States. Judicial corruption and political interference, especially in the judicial branch, remain the largest impediments to meaningful prosecutions of drug trafficking-related crime.
The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) sponsors programs and efforts under the Mérida Initiative, now Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). Efforts include supporting delegations of police officers, prosecutors and judges at regional conferences to build capacity in anti-gang activity, maritime counternarcotics initiatives, and professionalizing police work. U.S. support also enables Nicaraguan National Police to participate in three projects: the Central American Fingerprint Exchange (CAFE); the Central American Vetted and Sensitive Investigative Units (SIU); and Improved Policing and Police Equipment. Assistance for the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) Program will target areas Managua as well as the Pacific Coast.