Author: Ivan Castro
Published In: Reuters, August 28, 2014
Summary: Nicaragua is poorer than Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, but it has escaped the severe violence of these neighboring countries and has few migrants fleeing north to the United States. Why?
Why We’re Highlighting This Article: This Reuters article is a good example of positive deviant journalism, highlighting and explaining a place where data outcomes are better than expected.
The issue of illegal child migration from Central America to the United States has been front page news this summer. More than 57,000 unaccompanied young Central Americans fleeing gang violence and lack of job opportunities, have arrived at the southern border of the United States in the past nine months. These migrants come primarily from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. But one Central American country has largely avoided a mass exodus, and, in fact, is attracting migrants from its neighboring Central American countries: Nicaragua. In the past year, nearly 16,000 of these child migrants were from Honduras, while just 194 were from Nicaragua.
Nicaragua is the Western Hemisphere’s second poorest nation, after Haiti. But the country has managed to escape high levels of gang violence (the country’s homicide rate is 1/8 that of neighboring Honduras) and to create opportunities that are encouraging Nicaraguans to stay put.
So why has Nicaragua escaped the high levels of violence that have plagued neighboring countries?
The author quotes Jose Luis Rocha, an expert on Central American youth gangs and migration: “What really made the difference is what the Nicaraguan police have not done. They have been much less repressive in dealing with gangs.”
“In El Salvador and Honduras, governments adopted “iron fist” policies and jailed thousands of youths as gang members, often on flimsy evidence of gang association. Experts blame the crackdowns for deepening violence.”