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The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.

Challenges

Nicaragua’s poverty, widespread government corruption, extensive Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, porous border crossings, and sparsely populated regions provide a favorable environment for transnational criminal organizations to transit drugs, weapons, migrants, and cash. In 2012, Nicaragua did not receive the fiscal transparency waiver required for the central government to receive U.S. foreign assistance. INL programs work through civil society grants rather than working directly with the central government. The deterioration of democratic governance in Nicaragua in recent years, in particular since the onset of the country’s socio-political crisis in April 2018, poses a challenge to U.S. security interests in Central America.

Goals

INL works through U.S.-based and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to strengthen citizen security and reduce the demand for illicit drugs in Nicaragua. INL assistance supports drug prevention awareness campaigns, youth and community leadership training, efforts to increase understanding about criminality and organized crime by supporting independent media outlets, and rule of law advocacy to reduce vulnerabilities that make the population targets of transnational criminal organizations and further prone to irregular migration. INL programs build awareness of the criminal threats in Nicaragua and increase the capacity of ordinary citizens to resist the incursion of criminal networks into their communities, and more broadly, support the security and governance priorities of the U.S. Strategy for Central America and the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI).

Accomplishments

INL supported projects have helped communities organize citizen security groups to reduce crime in their neighborhoods; promote awareness on the dangers of drug abuse and different forms of violence, including youth and domestic violence; educate at-risk populations on human trafficking and provide assistance to victims; and support rule of law education programs and improve information transparency.

Citizen Security – INL works with U.S.-based NGOs to enhance awareness of rule of law principles in Nicaragua, including amongst law students, business owners, and civil society organizations. INL implements a domestic violence prevention program in the North Autonomous Caribbean Region to educate communities on the forms, causes, risks, and consequences of domestic violence, and to provide comprehensive assistance to victims. Finally, programming seeks to improve transparency and accountability in Nicaragua by strengthening local organizations and assisting journalists to better track and report on crime and corruption.

Drug Demand Reduction – In the Managua area, INL supports youth through vocational programs and after school activities, keeping vulnerable youth off the streets and reducing their risk of gang involvement. The program also works with immediate family members, teaching effective parenting strategies to encourage educational and vocational choices. In addition, INL works to prevent gang violence in three high-crime regions in Nicaragua with a focus on empowering youth to be agents of positive and sustainable change and deter youth involvement in crimes.

U.S. Department of State

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