How Nicaragua escaped neighbours’ deadly spiral

Victor Toruno (R) makes doughnuts with Francisco Jimenez at Toruno's home, which also serves as a bakery, in the Hialeah neighborhood in Managua August 13, 2014. Credit: REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Victor Toruno (R) makes doughnuts with Francisco Jimenez at Toruno’s home, which also serves as a bakery, in the Hialeah neighborhood in Managua August 13, 2014.
Credit: REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

TODAY NICARAGUA (Reuters) – Victor Toruno was just 12 when he ran away from an abusive father to join a local street gang in Nicaragua, graduating from thief to drug dealer.

After stints in jail and treatment and therapy for drug addiction, he took part in a rehabilitation and training programme run by a charity group and now runs a small bakery in Managua where he employs other youths who have escaped gang life.

- payin the bills -

Family members and friends hug while mourning for a young man who was shot amidst what local media claimed are accusations of extortion from vendors at a market in Tegucigalpa August 26, 2014.
Family members and friends hug while mourning for a young man who was shot amidst what local media claimed are accusations of extortion from vendors at a market in Tegucigalpa August 26, 2014.

It is a far cry from the fate of 17-year-old Jorge who lives just 150 miles (240 km) away in neighbouring Honduras, surrounded by gang members in a neighborhood where nine people were murdered in three months, including a 22-year-old relative.

Jorge rarely ventures out into the streets and dreams of riding a migration wave north to the United States.

For relative neighbours, they live worlds apart.
Both countries are among the most impoverished in the Americas, but Honduras is also blighted with the world’s highest murder rate, at 90.4 homicides per 100,000 people, according to the United Nations, while Nicaragua’s rate is just 11.3.

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- paying the bills -

Victor Toruno looks at his mobile phone at his home, which also serves as a bakery, in the Hialeah neighborhood in Managua August 13, 2014.   REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Victor Toruno looks at his mobile phone at his home, which also serves as a bakery, in the Hialeah neighborhood in Managua August 13, 2014. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

Police officers help an elderly couple move their belongings from their home after they received threats from street gang Mara 18 in Tegucigalpa August 10, 2014.REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera
Police officers help an elderly couple move their belongings from their home after they received threats from street gang Mara 18 in Tegucigalpa August 10, 2014.REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera

A police officer holds his gun while patrolling in the 14 de Marzo neighborhood, which most people have left due to gang threats according to local media, in Tegucigalpa August 25, 2014.  REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera
A police officer holds his gun while patrolling in the 14 de Marzo neighborhood, which most people have left due to gang threats according to local media, in Tegucigalpa August 25, 2014. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera

 

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