Gringos, Sex, and Murder in Nicaragua

7 Jan

Nicaragua, it has been said, is the next Costa Rica. It’s a dubious forecast. One indication of its veracity is the sharp rise in sexual tourism in Nicaragua over the past decade. It is so brazen that in some popular beach towns, it’s difficult to distinguish sex tourism from dating. There, middle-aged American men dangle Nicaraguan women half their age from their arms as they walk down the street. Such sights have caused palpable tension between the Nicaraguan people and the American tourists and retirees living in seaside mansions.

Last year, this flyer circulated through Nican blogs.

Ninas matan

It reads:

Careful retired foreigners, the girls of Nicaragua kill. Warning! The Association of Men over Seventy with a Preference for Latin American Girls warns that to retire and live sexually active with minors, better move to Laos or Thailand…

The man in the picture looks eerily similar to an old man I met in Leon, Nicaragua. With a baseball cap over his long white hair, the Texan told me that he moved to Nicaragua so that he could have the freedom to fulfill his fantasies. I was told later by a Nican realtor that this man keeps a house full of girls who are his sexual slaves.

I bring this all up now because it was in this context that a young American realtor and publisher, Eric Volz, was accused a year ago of the rape and murder of his former girlfriend, a young attractive Nicaraguan woman. The crime took place in San Juan del Sur, a picturesque beach town with a particularly visible divide between the American elite and the Nicaraguan community. Though only one witness testimony — that of a man who was originally charged with the murder — linked Volz to the crime, the case quickly became a witch hunt in which Nicaraguans targeted their anger at American expats at the unfortunate Volz. During the sham trial, the courts had to contain furious crowds from verbally or physically abusing the defendant.

After serving one year of his thirty-year sentence, Volz was vindicated last month by an appeals court ruling in his favor. Just before Christmas, high security released him from prison and escorted him to the Managua airport, where a private plane delivered him to his family in the U.S. Today the New York Times recaps his trial and the mockery it made of the Nicaraguan justice system. It does not, however, address what I believe is the most important aspect of this case — WHY the entire country became convinced, with such scarce evidence, that an American committed this crime, and WHY this crime captured the attention of everyone from fishermen in San Juan del Sur to President Daniel Ortega. For American observers, particularly ones who might plan a vacation to the cheap and beautiful country, these are the issues that we as Americans (North and Central) need to ask.

4 Responses to “Gringos, Sex, and Murder in Nicaragua”

  1. Susania January 7, 2008 at 5:03 pm #

    Thanks for this posting – it really does give some sense of how this travesty of justice could have started in the first place!

  2. Will April 14, 2008 at 6:00 pm #

    Thought you might like to see this new video from Eric that he smuggled out of prison:

    http://www.friendsofericvolz.com/smuggled_camera_blog_post

  3. Daniel June 19, 2009 at 3:30 pm #

    To those middle and overaged expats, leave the Nicaraguan women who are minors alone. We dont mind if you get a Nicaraguan women old enough to date, but you getting an underage women is showing how you disrespect Nicaraguan people, and how you use and spit on us.

    • william deane March 17, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

      Right on! No under age sex. Americans have to learn not to take advantage of people in a country with less economic advantage. Respect all starts with respecting one’s self.

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