Ortega Suggests Colombia-Nicaragua Joint Drug Patrols in Caribbean

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Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has invited Colombia to collaborate on joint anti-trafficking sea patrols in parts of the Caribbean recently granted to the Central American nation.

At a military ceremony in Managua, Ortega said the war on drugs was “a battle which must be fought together,” reported Vanguardia Liberal, and proposed that Colombia participate in sea patrol operations planned by Nicaragua and the United States for 2013.

The maritime border between the two Latin American nations was redrawn by a November 19 International Court of Justice ruling following a long-running dispute, with the court giving Nicaragua control of Caribbean maritime territory that formerly belonged to Colombia.

The Nicaraguan military plans to carry out patrols near its coastline during the first half of next year with the help of the United States, as part of a maritime anti-trafficking cooperation agreement signed by the two countries in 2001.

InSight Crime Analysis

Ortega’s invitation is an acknowledgement of the Colombian Navy’s experience fighting drug trafficking in the Caribbean.

The withdrawal of Colombia’s large, modernized navy from what are now Nicaraguan waters could be good news for traffickers. Years of financial constraints have left Nicaragua’s small navy lacking essential equipment, though the United States has said that the institution’s willingness to cooperate in joint operations makes it “one of Central America’s most effective agencies in narcotics interdictions.”

Colombia, by contrast, has one of the highest military budgets in the Western Hemisphere and also enjoys a close relationship with the US Navy and Coast Guard.

Maritime routes through the Caribbean are becoming increasingly significant in the international cocaine trade, and Colombia’s northern coast is an important launching point for drug shipments.

A July 2012 InSight Crime investigation revealed Nicaragua’s remote coastline had become a key location in cocaine smuggling routes, with Colombian traffickers turning to Nicaraguan criminal gangs for logistical support and refuge as they move product northwards to the United States.

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