Sep. 8th, 2011

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Nicaragua's Antidote to Violent Crime


GUATEMALA CITY, Sept 7, 2011 (IPS) - The so-called "Northern Triangle" of Central America, plagued by poverty, violence and the legacy of civil war, is considered one of the most violent areas in the world. But neighbouring Nicaragua has largely escaped the spiralling violence, and many wonder how it has managed to do so.

There are undoubtedly a number of reasons that crime rates are so much lower in Nicaragua than in its three neighbours to the north – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – but analysts and experts point to two fundamental aspects: community policing and greater social cohesion.

In the view of Helen Mack, the head of the Myrna Mack Foundation, a Guatemala City-based human rights organisation, the focus taken by Nicaragua's police force "makes a huge difference."

"The three countries of the Northern Triangle are influenced by the United States, and the police have played a supporting role to the army, protecting the state by means of repression. Meanwhile, the Nicaraguans, after the (1979) revolution, based their police forces on the Cuban model, which is focused on the community," said the activist, whose group is pushing for police reforms in Guatemala.

On Jul. 19, 1979, the left-wing Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) overthrew the regime of General Anastasio Somoza, putting an end to the nearly half-century Somoza family dictatorship.

One of the main achievements of the revolution was increased citizen participation, aimed at strengthening economic, social, political and cultural rights.

During the years of fighting the Somoza dynasty, the Sandinistas created the Civil Defence Committees. Once the FSLN seized power, these gave way to the Sandinista Defence Committees – neighbourhood watch structures – which evolved in 1988 into the Nicaraguan Communal Movement.


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