The US Accuses Nicaragua of ‘Institutional Corruption’ But its Own Report Doesn’t Support its Claim

Taken from NicaNotes 3 May 2017 | Reproduced here by kind permission of Chuck Kaufman

This week’s guest blog is by a correspondent who prefers to remain anonymous due to their job in Nicaragua.

On March 27, 2017, the headline in La Prensa, one of the major newspapers in Nicaragua, read, “The United States urges Nicaragua to address ‘institutional corruption’.  A report on drug trafficking released this month by the US State Department claims that there is institutional corruption in Nicaragua.”  The report on drug trafficking referred to is the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, a kind of report card issued by the US State Department rating the degree to which it says countries around the world comply with US expectations concerning the ‘war on drugs’.

The report’s first line claims: “Nicaragua remains a primary transit route for drug trafficking.”  For people with an interest in Nicaragua, there are at least three important issues raised by the report and the coverage in La Prensa. The first is the ‘war on drugs’, the second is what is actually happening in Nicaragua to fight narcotrafficking, and the third is the US’s ongoing, inappropriate interference in the internal affairs of Nicaragua.

For several consecutive administrations, the US has defined ‘the war on drugs’ as a war on supply to be fought outside of our borders. Despite spending billions of dollars with nothing to show for it , the US has clung stubbornly to this approach. We have ignored the consensus in much of the rest of the world that the problem is one of appetite. As long as people in the US are willing to spend billions of dollars on illegal drugs to get high, someone somewhere will supply the product. Many sovereign countries in Latin America and elsewhere have taken the very reasonable position that the US’s consumption of illegal drugs is not their problem and it is not a priority for them to help solve it, especially not on their soil.

Nicaragua has only to look to its neighbours to the north, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, countries allied with and heavily financed by the US’s war on drugs to see how bad things can go. The northern triangle countries are among the most violent and corrupt in the world. They are near failed states where many aspects of government barely function. In comparison, Nicaragua is safe, stable, and peaceful.

None-the-less, Nicaragua is quite active in working to prevent the damage that could be caused by the transportation of drugs through the country, particularly preventing the violence and corruption associated with gangs and drug cartels. This is acknowledged by the Nicaragua country report within the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: Nicaragua’s “‘Retaining Wall’ (Muro de Contención) strategy promotes a coordinated effort to stop narcotics traffickers from entering the country.” (For a good description of this strategy see this article) The Strategy Report goes on to detail many anti-trafficking activities, including drug seizures carried out in cooperation with the US and other international partners.  The concluding statement about “institutional corruption” feels tacked on and not supported by what has come before.

The tone of the conclusion of the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report is paternal and condescending. It assumes that, of course, the US can grade and prescribe what other countries do: “The Government of Nicaragua must increase efforts to combat organised crime within the vulnerable Caribbean coast regions of Nicaragua, which remain the primary routes for international drug trafficking. In addition, an increased focus on drug prevention programmes and rehabilitation facilities, institutional corruption, and judicial independence is recommended to complement interdiction efforts.” (US dept of state resource) This is a continuation of a long, despicable history in which the US has tried to control and dictate to Nicaraguans how their country should be run. Nicaraguans are completely capable of analysing their own situation and deciding what, if anything, they want to do about it. The US has no standing to tell them what they “must” do.

The government of Nicaragua is not perfect. We know this because no government in the world is, including our own. However, sovereign nations, which like Nicaragua, are not a threat to anyone, have a right to struggle with their own imperfections and to work them out in their own way.

The article in La Prensa, includes commentary by sociologist and political analyst Oscar René Vargas. He says the report means that the United States “is following the political, economic and social events of Nicaragua… that Nicaragua is already on the radar of the United States. This does not mean that the United States will take immediate action against the government, but it does mean that the promoters of the ‘Nica Act’ will take into account… the State Department report.” (The NICA Act would cut Nicaragua off from the system of international loans that Global South countries need to run themselves in the global neoliberal economic system. See: this  for the ridiculous details. Those of us who work to keep the US’s relationship with Nicaragua friendly and non-imperialistic need to stay alert to this situation.


  • During a meeting in Managua with Directors of Police Academies from Central America, Colombia and the Caribbean, the Inspector General of the Mexican Police Academy, Rubén Rodríguez, said Nicaragua is one of the most successful countries in the fight against drug trafficking and organised crime. “We believe this is a very important meeting to learn about the Nicaragua experience in public safety, fight against drug trafficking and organised crime,” the Director of the Mexican Police Academy said. (Nicaragua News, May 1)

NicaNotes is a blog for Nicaragua activists and those interested in Nicaragua, published by the Nicaragua Network, a project of the Alliance for Global Justice,