Photo: RIA Novosti

Photo: RIA Novosti

Nicaragua, the scene of bloody clashes between the Soviet-backed Sandinistas and the US-backed “contras” in the early 1980s, is now becoming a major stronghold in a war on drug trafficking.

Nicaraguan lawmakers have approved the government’s decision to allow Russian ships, aircraft and anti-drug units into the country to patrol Nicaragua’s waters in the Caribbean and the Pacific as of next year. Similar permission has been granted to the United States, Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela.

Curiously, both the US and Russian anti-drug forces were invited by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a former leader of the Sandinista revolution and Washington’s top arch-foe in the western hemisphere in the 70-s and 80s.

That Russia was requested to patrol both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as part of a regional anti-drug trafficking campaign is hardly a surprise, considering close long-lasting, though never advertised, ties between the Russian and Nicaraguan drug control agencies.

Russian and US anti-drug forces will be working together to curb drug flows to the US and Europe and, of course, Russia, said Zbigniew Iwanowski, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Latin American Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“Latin America, by virtue of its geographical situation and climate, holds the cocaine production monopoly. All the cocaine smuggled into Europe, the United States and Russia comes from Latin or Central America,” he said.

For years, Mexican and Colombian drug cartels have had shipping bases in the Nicaraguan jungle. The authorities just don’t have the potential to effectively fight well-armed and well-trained smugglers.

March 2013 saw a milestone triumph when more than a ton of cocaine was seized and the notorious Mexico-based Los Zetas cartel was neutralized thanks to anti-drug cooperation with Russia. The same month, chief of the Russian drug control service Viktor Ivanov laid the first symbolic stone for a regional anti-drug training center in Managua.

Drug trafficking is transnational problem and therefore cannot be handled solely at a national level, said Emil Dabagyan, Director of the Center for Political Studies of the Institute of Latin America.

“There have been positive shifts towards broader coordination of international efforts against drug trafficking. The Nicaraguan example will hopefully lead to a major breakthrough,” he said.

The Nicaraguan and Russian military will be jointly patrolling Nicaragua’s territorial waters in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean from January 1 through June 30, 2014. If the mission is a success, it may be extended for another six months.

Source: Voice of Russia