Nicaragua, Intelligence and Security
Nicaragua gained independence from Spain in 1821, and became a republic in 1838. Late-twentieth-century politics in the region have been marked by violence and turmoil. A brief civil war in 1979 ushered the Marxist Sandinistas to power. Cold War politics, and Sandinista military aid to other leftist rebel groups in the region, prompted the United States to assist anti-Sandinista, contra forces. By the end of 1989, the Sandinistas had lost control of much of Nicaragua, but not before continued violence, rampant corruption, and the actions of secret police forces had devastated the nation.
Domestic intelligence is the responsibility of the Directorate of Intelligence Affairs (DAI). The DAI does conduct limited foreign intelligence operations and processes most of the information gathered by other Nicaraguan intelligence forces. The chief officers of the DAI, as well as members of the Ministry of the Interior, act as a liaison between the intelligence community and the government executive. The relationship between the intelligence community and the government is somewhat ambiguous, with no formal means of accountability or a standardized oversight process. Even following the recent democratic elections, the DAI has come under increasing scrutiny for political espionage activities.
Nicaragua's main military intelligence agency is the Directorate of Military Intelligence. the agency coordinates military and foreign intelligence operations, but also conducts surveillance of paramilitary and opposition groups in the region. The routine operations of the Directorate of Military Intelligence remain largely unknown, but the organization has close ties to political officials and the civilian intelligence community.
Nicaraguan free elections in 1990, 1996, and 2001 ousted the Sandinistas from power, but economic and political recovery has been difficult. Drug trafficking and corruption remain endemic problems, and years of guerrilla fighting have left many Nicaraguans with a deep distrust of the government, military, and other security forces.
Nicaragua is a member of the United Nations (UN) and several other Central and Latin American defense and economic organizations. The government has joined international efforts to stem drug trafficking, combat illegal arms sales, and fight global terrorism.
█ FURTHER READING:
Central Intelligence Agency. "Nicaragua." CIA World Factbook. < http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/nu.html > (April 8, 2003).