Drug Trafficking Corrupts Indigenous Populations in the Nicaraguan Caribbean

By Dialogo
February 07, 2013

The presence of drug trafficking and corruption are recognizably exacerbating prominent poverty, crime and social problems among indigenous populations in aboriginal communities throughout the Nicaraguan Caribbean, according to a report published on January 5 by the Nicaraguan Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policies (IEEPP).

The diagnosis was determined in 2011 by the IEEPP in the indigenous municipality of Bilwi, head of the North Atlantic Autonomous Region, the largest and most impoverished area in the country.

According to the report, Bilwi is the municipality with the “highest crime rate” in Nicaragua, with a rate of 667 crimes for every 10,000 inhabitants, mostly aggravated robbery and sexual assault.

The authorities attribute the rise in crime to extreme poverty (60% of the population), school dropouts (58%), drug abuse and the support given to drug traffickers by locals in exchange for weapons or money.

“The situation is getting worse,” IEEPP researcher Alfonso Malespín stated during the report presentation in Managua.

The support to drug traffickers “is given in different forms, such as hiding speedboats, trading information about troops’ movements, smuggling drugs, providing fuel and/or collaborating as explorers,” he added.

According to the document, gangs have also spread in Bilwi – with over 66,000 inhabitants of the Miskina ethnicity, most of them under 24 years old, perpetrating crimes, and intimidating the population or collaborating with drug traffickers.

“Sometimes, drug traffickers use these groups of young people to smuggle drugs into the city or along the littoral” in exchange for 200 or 300 dollars per mission, Malespín stated.

While conducting research for the report, IEEPP members interviewed children, who stated that they expected to “become politicians and drug dealers” because “they have a lot of power and money; they can do whatever they want and they don’t have to be accountable to anyone.”

“The Moravian church (with the highest influence in the area) confirmed that several ministers in the communities devastated by hurricane Felix in 2007, accepted donations from drug traffickers to rebuild their churches, and that “sometimes they give donations of 200 or 300 dollars to ministers,” Malespín revealed.

Bilwi is the second most important port on the Nicaraguan Atlantic coast, after Bluefields, which has the highest homicide rate in the country (44 per 100,000 inhabitants) as a consequence of organized crime.

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