The Nicaraguan Model

London Review of Books
11 July 2014
By John Perry 

There’s nothing new about children travelling alone through Central America and Mexico to get to the United States. The journey and its dangers were portrayed five years ago in the film “Sin Nombre”. One character, Sayra, a teenage girl from Honduras, ends up crossing the Rio Grande alone. She is looking out for Casper, a friend she made weeks earlier on the Mexico-Guatemala border. He doesn’t make it: he’s shot on the river bank by a rival, 12-year-old gang member.

What’s changed since then is a sudden surge in numbers. Unlike adult migrants, most children report to the US Border Patrol once they cross the frontier. In the nine months to June this year, more than 52,000 ‘alien children’ were registered, twice as many as in the previous twelve months.

.... Nicaragua, even poorer than its northern neighbour, does not feature in the US Border Patrol’s statistics of child migrants. Last year it became the safest country in Central America, with a murder rate one-tenth that of Honduras. Yet it has the region’s smallest police force, the lowest military spending per head and the smallest prison population.

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