Nicaragua has one of the region's lowest murder rates, in part because its gangs are small-time and transnational cartels haven't moved in. But that may be changing as the Zetas are expand south.
Nicaragua, along with its neighbors Panama and Costa Rica, is often described as a country that dodged the wave of organized crime violence swamping Central America, but that could be about to change.
The numbers are clear; Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, the three nations in the “Northern Triangle,” all had murder rates of more than 40 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010, with Honduras on course for a staggeringly high rate of 86 per 100,000 this year. Meanwhile the three countries to the south all kept their rates below 25. Nicaragua, despite being the poorest nation in the isthmus, has one of the lowest murder rates, at 14.
Many theories put forward to explain this revolve around the work of the authorities to stop youth gangs forming and becoming violent. This is attributed to the legacy of socialist structures put in place during the Sandinista revolution, with “neighborhood watch” organizations that still persist today, and community-based police forces focused on crime prevention.
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