Thursday, January 24, 2013

Homicides Decrease in Nicaragua

According to government statistics, Nicaragua recorded 675 violent deaths in 2012, 63 fewer than the 738 suffered in 2011, a 8.5% decrease. National Police Chief Commissioner Francisco Diaz said that the decline occurred in the midst of an overall 9% drop in criminal activity.
There are several explanations for the comparatively low crime rates in Nicaragua including a more professional police and military (largely a legacy of the war), migration patterns (who left, where they went, who came back), political culture probably (remember reading an article about 20 years ago that compared Nicaragua favorably to Costa Rica in this regard), drug routes (absence of people along the Atlantic Coast to a certain extent), etc.
Maybe the lesson can also be that you can have corruption, a weak to non-existent democracy, poverty, gangs, and drug trafficking and still maintain lower murder and overall crime rates. (What do you think Christine?)
I did find the discussion of traffic accidents interesting as well.
Traffic accidents are one of the main pending challenges, due to an increase in 2012 both in quantity and degree of danger, he said.
2012 closed with an increase of 7.1 percent in road accidents and a tally of 679 fatalities, 66 more than in 2011, he said.
According to Garcia, in 99 percent of these cases the state of the roads was not a factor, but human irresponsibility was, especially in regard to drivers speeding, and driving while intoxicated.
The goal of our government is to confront these facts starting in the schools, and in state, religious and family institutions.
I've always told students interested in traveling or studying in Central America, that while crime is high in many countries, the most dangerous aspect to traveling in the region is transportation.

There are no such things as pedestrian rights. Be very careful crossing the street. I've not been able to ascertain any rules to the road. Stop signs are often optional. Speeding and poor maintenance of buses leads to multiple fatalities. Drinking and driving problems. Congestion. High rates of road rage.
I've also been really surprised in the last few weeks at the number of cars that simply disobeyed traffic police.

In El Salvador, we believed that you were more likely to get hurt or die riding in minivans. While you had to pay more, they got you to your destination faster unless you had one of those accidents, of course. Buses, on the other hand, were cheaper and slower. You also had a higher probability of getting robbed. Thieves would simultaneously get on at the front and the back of the bus and clean everybody out. I also had a friend who had a knife stuck in his ribs by a passenger that took the seat next to him. He said that it was his fault because he sat by the window and closed his eyes. On the positive side of things, you were less likely to die or get hurt in accidents while on the larger buses. These observations only pertain to urban buses.


  1. Hi Mike, I agree with the main reasons you give explaining lower homicide (I might quibble with claiming Nic. has lower overall crime, though) rates in Nicaragua. Migration and the development of a professional, community-based police force have clearly been important.
    I want to get your thoughts on some research suggesting Nicaraguan pandillas are younger (in terms of avg. age), more fragmented, and rendered incompetent by their widespread use (rather than sales/distribution) of crack cocaine than mareros to the north. This would help explain the other side of the homicide equation, while accounting for the still sky-high petty crime, theft, etc. that Nicaraguans seem to experience as much or more than Hondurans and Guatemalans (according to LAPOP numbers). Dennis Rodgers has a few great articles on this (2002, 2007).

  2. Casey,

    Sorry I really don't have anything to add to those hypotheses. Nicaragua didn't have to deal with the influx of thousands of deported mareros, perhaps older in age, from the US as compared to ES and Guate - but then again, neither did Honduras. Nicaraguan pandillas are too addicted too crack cocaine to be that organized and violent? I don't know. Any studies on comparative drug use among pandillas?

    I don't know. Those could contribute to explaining the less violent nature of the Nicaraguan pandillas but I'm just not sure how much.