Nicaragua reasserts claim to ‘safest in Central America’

President Ortega blames crime and murders on ‘savage capitalism’

Nicaragua’s homicide rate—already the second-lowest in the region behind Costa Rica—dipped even lower last year to 12 murders for every 100,000 people, strengthening the country’s claim to the superlative distinction of “safest in Central America,” according to National Police.

Police Chief Aminta Granera said last night in her annual report to the president that Managua now averages one homicide every two days—remarkably below the average murder rate in other Central American capitals, where 10 to 20 people are killed every day.

Comparisons to the rest of the region should, however, come with an asterisk explaining that the northern triangle of Central America is a complete mess. El Salvador and Honduras have the two highest homicide rates in the world, nearly six-to-eight times that of Nicaragua’s, while Guatemala and Belize are doing their best to keep pace with the violence, posting homicide rates around 41 to every 100,000 people.

In Action: Police Chief Aminta Granera (photo/ Tim Rogers)

With neighbors like that, it’s not hard to look good. Still, Nicaragua’s National Police have demonstrated in the past year that they are not content with the dubious honorific of being the safest country in the most violent region of the world. Instead, police insist they have worked hard to improve their own effectiveness, community relations, crime-prevention and response to delinquency.

As a result of those efforts, total crimes—or at least the ones the cops were told about—dropped last year by 6.6%, from 161,904 reported crimes in 2010 to 151,228 crimes last year, according to police numbers. Overall, reported crimes are down more than 8% since 2009, according to official statistics.

Of the crimes reported last year, 75% were classified as lesser crimes and minor offenses, while only 7% were considered major crimes representing a danger to society.

The police’s numbers appear consistent with the public’s perception of citizen security. According to an M&R Consultants poll released last March, crime has dropped to fifth place on Nicaraguans’ worry list, down from third place just two years ago.

“There has been a decrease in [crime] due to the increase in the presence of police on a national level and because the population and families have an opportunity to report crime, even though many times the population complains that the police don’t pay attention to them when they report crimes,” President Daniel Ortega told police during Tuesday night’s event.

Drugs & hooch are a major problem

Nicaragua’s claim to safety isn’t the same across the country, however. While the government boasts “European homicide levels” in municipalities such as Carazo, León and Madriz—all of which have a murder rate under 5 per 100,000—Nicaragua’s drug-ravaged South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS) has a homicide rate on par with Guatemala’s, with almost 43 murders per 100,000 people.

Still, Nicaragua’s police force is fighting back hard against drug trafficking and organized crime. In 2011, police busted 18 organized crime syndicates, intercepted 7 tons of cocaine, and confiscated 294 drug vehicles, 38 drug boats, 141 firearms and $5 million in drug booty. Police also arrested 2,271 alleged drug dealers last year, Granera said last night.

“We don’t want drugs passing through our national territory, because when they pass through they leave residual contaminates in our society, they contaminate our institutions and they contaminate our youth,” Granera said.

The police commissioner said that in recent meetings with the population (a series of neighborhood chats between police and Sandinista Councils of Citizen Power (CPCs) that First Lady Rosario Murillo called “a journey of reflection,” or some such thing), a leading complaint was that police are targeting transnational drug traffickers but are not doing enough to capture neighborhood pushers.

“[The population] has demanded that we be more belligerent with local drug dealers,” Granera said. “People tell us, ´How is it possible that everyone knows where drugs are being sold and no one does anything about it?’ We have told people that it’s not that easy because we need search warrants from the court, but we have promised to be more belligerent.”

Granera said lots of communities are also complaining about the abundance of neighborhood liquor stores. The police chief said that 48% of homicides in the country involve drugs and alcohol.

Also related to alcohol abuse is the number of traffic deaths, which increased by 7.4% last year. According to police numbers, 613 people died in car accidents in Nicaragua last year, compared to 840 total homicides and murders. If the current trends continue, vehicular stupidity will eventually become the leading cause of violent death in Nicaragua.

Savage Capitalism should face hard time

President Ortega, perhaps out of habit more than anything else, told police Tuesday night that crime and murders are due to “a model of savage capitalism imposed upon the planet.”

Without blushing, Ortega said the “accumulation and concentration of wealth in the hands of few” has exacerbated crime and “multiplied criminal acts.”

“The biggest crime that has been committed against humanity is the imposition of this model of savage capitalism,” Ortega said. “That is the essence of criminality that today burns on the entire planet…the first people who need to be judged and jailed by international tribunals are those who promote and benefit from this model.”

 At press time, Nicaraguan police hadn’t made any arrests.



  • Gerd

    Granera said. “People tell us, ´How is it possible that everyone knows where drugs are being sold and no one does anything about it?’ We have told people that it’s not that easy because we need search warrants from the court, but we have promised to be more belligerent.”

    The same is true with environment criminals, or let’s say with the environment law, the environmental delinquency law, the autonomy law, the forest law and the water law (and the constitution, by the way). Laws in Nicaragua are sort of an orientation help for people with some good will.

  • Gerd

    “a model of savage capitalism imposed upon the planet.”

    He should finally read some of Karl Marx books on economy science. It is not “imposed”, it is the logic continuation of the history before. And will come to its end, but not by stupid slogans and ignorance or even by imitating it.

    Safe Nicaragua – also just propaganda. German proverb says “Among the blind the one-eyed is the king”. Nicaragua is violent, dangerous, with a huge lack of respect for life, people do not dare to go to many barrios, the do not take the night bus, they are assaulted anywhere, and: ask about family violence! It is just that Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica (really?), Belice (really?) do have more delinquency than Nicaragua. To use “Nicaragua” and “safe” in the same sentence, is just manipulation.

  • martin

    I generally feel very safe in Nicaragua. My Nica friends, however, claim that a lot of crime is not reported because it is local, they know who the criminals are and are afraid of retaliation if they go to the police …. so they just lock their doors and take what ever precautions they can.

  • Patrica A Estes

    My 68 year old husband was jailed without the benefit of evidence on a grand larceny charge. This was totally fabricated by two Noth Americans and one Nicaraguense. He was thrown in jail in a cell designed for two men with 7 others. He had to sleep on a wet concrete floor with no space to turn over or move. My Husband has had both knees replaced, two major back surgeries, neck surgery, ankle surgery wirth screws and pins in place. He spent 14 days before being bailed out.
    We are not tourist here but residence with cedulas. In order to get the cedula in Nicaragua we had to have a perfectly clean police record in the U.S.A.. The person that filed these charges againt my husband is running from the United States Government on charges of Tax evasion and fraud.
    In April of 2011 we rented a house in Las penitas, Leon from Michael Alan Reed. We should have known things were not right when Mr. Reed did not want to give a writen contract on the property. It would show he was receiving income which by law he would have to report. One month after we rented and moved into the house on 30th April, 2011 Mr. Reed approached my husband and I about him putting the house in our names. Our question was why wolud he put his house valued at $ 235,000 in the name of someone he had only known for a month or so. It appears that Mr. Reed is having very big problems with the Internal Revenue Service in the United States. The have auctioned off all he owns in the United States and he still owes $ 786,000 U.S. Dollars to them. We refused his offer because we are law abiding citzens and did not want to be involved in any scheme to defraud the U.S. Government.The IRS still has 5 more years of investigation to go on unpaid taxes . When Mr. Reed returns to the United States he will be arrested.
    When we rented this house it was to be fully furnished and we were to have full use of the property and everything on it. Mr. Reed then left for Belize. When he returned he visited the house and said that he needed money and was going to sell furniture and tools from the house. My husband told Mr. Reed that if he did this that he would need to lower the rent and that we wanted a written contract. Michael Alan Reed did not want to do this so we told him we would be finding another place to live.
    This angered Mr. Reed very much. My husband called a friend and ask if he knew of anyplaces for rent near by because I wanted to live in beachfront property. We found a place and could get a written contract. The house was much better and for a lower price. We then informed Mr. Reed that we would be moving April, 10th, 2012 and he could sell anything he wanted after then. His reply was he was going to sell nothing because he would be moving into the house. Michael Alan Reed called me several days later to inform me that he would be coming to do an inventory of the house. My husband went to the police to ask if we had to let him do this because he had not done one when we moved in. The police said no we did not have to let Mr. Reed inventory. When Mr. Reed appeared at our gate my husband told him that we were not going to let him in. Mr. Reed then begen to call my husband some very bad names and said he would beat his ass to death. My husband then told Mr. Reed that if he wanted to inventory that I would go get the police and when he finished his inventory he would take it with him until we moved out of the house. My husband allso informed him that we would be moving the 31st of March, and not April the 10th due to Mr. Reed’s threats. We were actually very afraid of Mr. Reed because of conversations we had had with Donna Dau, Mr. Reed’s past girlfriend that lived with him in Nicaragua said he was a very violent man and dangerous man. She moved back to the U.S.A. because she feared for her safety. We moved out of the house at 5:45 PM on the 31st of April, 2012. We moved into a small one bedroom house until we could move into the larger house because of Holy Week. We moved into the new larger house on 10 April, 2012.
    On 19th of April, 2012, the police came to our house and read out charges in spanish about him stealing things out of Michael Alan Reed’s house. They also had a serach warrant to search our house. The only thing they found from the other house was a dog that Mr. Reed had abandoned at the house when he rented the house to us. We paid for food, vaccinations, parasite medicine for the dog. Mr. Reed paid nothing for 11 months. Nothing of what he said my husband had taken was found because we took nothing. This makes no difference because my husband was arrested and thrown in jail.
    I find it very hard to believe in a police force that can do this to a man without any investigation. Didn’t Hitler do things like this ?
    My husband, Emmitt Eugene Estes, never arrested for anything in his life, spent the time and money to legally reitre in Nicaragua, paid taxes on everything we brought to Nicaragua. Have our retirement sent to a bank in Nicaragua. Spends $ 2800 a month to the economy of Nicaragua, has bought school clothes, books and shoes for poor children in Nicaragua.
    Has never broken the law in Nicaragua. Why should he ? He doesn’t need to steal because we have $ 3100 a month in retiement coming every month. Why would we risk all of this over some junk and some that was not even in the house to begin with. The main thing, my husband is not a thief
    Michael Alan Reed. is in trouble with the law in the United States. Has a very small retirement because he did not pay his taxes, Presently owes the United States $ 786,000 and that amount is climbing, will be arrested when he returns to the United States. He needed the money $ 800 dollars US we were paying in rent to live on in central america. Tried to extort $ 10,000 form us to drop the charges.
    Mr. President, you may have gotten rid of a lot of the corruption in the police force in Nicaragua but there is still a long ways to go. At his age and health problems, my husband will actually be going to trial for his life when all we wanted to do was retire in a country that was supposed to be safe and peaceful for something he did not do.

    • Juanita

      Dear, you cannot blame Nicaragua’s Police for something that you made grong from the bigining.
      -Do not do the inventory of everything on the first day,
      -Do not hire a real state company to rent a house, there are many in Nicaragua,
      -Do not hire a lawyer to make a contract of lease, there are in Nicaragua
      -Do not investigate the landlord backgroun before to enter on business with him, the same way you did it after all the problems
      -Do not buy your own house, there are many beutifull houses for sale with less monthly payment that what you are paying for a lease, and all american citizen’s properties are under USA gobernment proteccion in Nicaragua du to bi-latera governments’ agreemnet.
      -Do not do a very good research of all the pro and cons once you move to live in other country that is not your native or at least the one you had living longer.
      These are to some of the moves you did wrong and in any of these the Nicaraguan Police has been involbed, be honest with you and recognize your mistakes and do not bleme others for it.
      I live in USA and beforeto buy my house I drive around the neighborhood at diferent times and days, I even when to the police department and request a criminal record of the house I whant to buy.
      Well dear I hope by the time you read this reply all your problems be solved and you and your husband be happy.
      God bless you.

  • Pete Gabriel

    I live in Carazo for seven years and my brother lives in Leon for almost four years with our wives. We believe the nica statistics. We travel throughout nicaragua with the local in the school buses, we would be lying if we said that there is high crime in the small towns as you are trying to portrait. I think you guys are coming from a political point. We don’t feel anymore danger that our native Massachusetts state. To be telling people that the RAAS area is like being in one of the other centralamerican country is a disservice to our community. There is no comparison between Nicaragua and even many state in the U.S. The people are so friendly that when I or my wife need help everyone around want to help. We find the nica police to be one of the most courteous anywhere in the world.