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Exporting Nicaragua's citizen security model

Nicaragua could be a citizen security model for other Central American countries to imitate, but some elements are harder to transfer than others, writes guest blogger Hannah Stone.

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Granera also highlights the police's strong intelligence networks around the Gulf of Fonseca, which it shares with Honduras and El Salvador, and their close tracking of individuals deported from the US. The US policy of deporting suspected criminals to their countries of origin was one of the things that caused the Los Angeles-based MS-13 and Barrio 18 to expand in the Northern Triangle countries in the 1990s. Many Nicaraguan immigrants, by contrast, went to Costa Rica or to Miami, which did not have LA’s pervasive gang problem, and so there were fewer criminals deported.

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Whatever the reasons for Nicaragua's success, the world is starting to pay attention. Panama, Venezuela and Peru have sought security advice, while Granera has been invited to explain Nicaragua’s security model to the European Union. Honduran President Porfirio Lobo recently paid a visit to Managua to discuss issues of organized crime and violence, and said that he was especially interested in Nicaragua’s social policies; "It’s very important for us to know their experiences.” Granera, who attended another security conference in Panama this week, said that Nicaragua had been described as a "new security paradigm."

However, there are many factors in bringing about Nicaragua’s security situation that cannot be exported. One factor highlighted by InSight Crime is the role of community ties in preventing the transnational maras from taking root, with one being the “neighborhood watch” style organizations left over from the socialist revolution. And the countries of the Northern Triangle are not all looking to Nicaragua for ideas. Both El Salvador and Guatemala have recently moved to institute more hardline policies against gangs, centering on repressive measures rather than the prevention and rehabilitation that Granera calls for.

– Hannah Stone is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of her research here.

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