The Nicaraguan military has called for international help to build up its navy as it struggles to muster the resources needed to patrol newly acquired territorial waters near the Colombian island of San Andres, which lie on a major trafficking route.
The Nicaraguan military Commander in Chief, General Julio Cesar Aviles, said the country needed at least eight more boats to effectively police its maritime territories and intercept drug shipments, reported El Nuevo Diario.
“The need is real, we have discussed it,” he said. “It would be ideal if we could get them through the framework of international cooperation, but if not, we would have to look at the possibility of buying them.”
General Aviles said they had entered into talks with the Russian government over the possibility of supplying the vessels, but added “we are looking at all the options.”
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Throughout the boom in drug trafficking through Central America of recent years, Nicaragua has emerged as a popular transhipment point for cocaine moving north, with the coastal North Atlantic and South Atlantic Autonomous Regions (known as the RAAN and RAAS respectively), proving particularly popular with traffickers looking to exploit a weak state presence.
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The size of the task facing the Nicaraguan security forces in tackling this trade has increased considerably since the International Court of Justice ruling last year in a territorial dispute with Colombia, which awarded sovereignty over the island of San Andres to Colombia but granted Nicaragua control over surrounding waters.
While economically beneficial for Nicaragua, the ruling greatly increases the size of the maritime territory the country’s navy has to police. In addition, the territory is a favored drug trafficking route, as San Andres is a popular stop-off point for drug shipments sent by Colombian organized crime groups, including the Urabeños and the Rastrojos.
The already stretched Nicaraguan security forces are going to struggle to cover this territory alone, and an expansion of the sort called for by General Cesar will be difficult to finance. However, given the bitter nature of the dispute with Colombia, and a continuing terse relationship with the United States, Nicaragua may struggle to find international partners to fill the gap.