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.
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 (TCOs) 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, leading to a strategic shift in INL programming to work through civil society grants rather than working directly with the central government.
INL’s objective is to work through U.S.-based and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to strengthen citizen security and reduce the demand for illicit drugs. Programs include drug prevention awareness campaigns, youth and community leadership training, and rule of law advocacy to reduce vulnerabilities that make the population targets of TCOs and further prone to illegal migration. INL programs are building awareness of the criminal threats in Nicaragua and increasing the capacity of ordinary citizens to resist the incursion of criminal networks into their communities. INL programs are consistent with security and governance priorities of the U.S. Strategy for Central America and the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), and complement efforts under the Central American governments’ Alliance for Prosperity.
INL-supported projects help 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 – A U.S.-based NGO is managing a country-wide grant to enhance awareness of rule of law principles. This includes support to law students, business owners, and civil society organizations. A second U.S.-based NGO is implementing 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. A third U.S.-based NGO is working on improving 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, a local NGO manages a program to instill values in at-risk youth through vocational programs and after school activities, keeping vulnerable youth off the streets and reducing their chances of gang involvement. The program also works with immediate family members, teaching effective parenting strategies to encourage educational and vocational choices. A U.S.-based university provides drug resistance education to adolescents in 7th and 8th grade. In addition, a U.S.-based NGO implements a gang violence prevention program in three high crime departments in Nicaragua to empower youth to be proactive agents of positive and sustainable changes, and to deter at-risk youth involvement in crimes.