Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is negotiating with Russia and the United States to acquire helicopters and coast guard vessels to modernize the country's military fleet as it fights drug smuggling, the government said Saturday.
Ortega said he was approaching countries with the ability to "support (us) in the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime," according to a post on the Nicaraguan government's official "19 de Julio" website.
The Nicaraguan president said Russia had committed to providing "medium-range naval vessels but with sufficient autonomy to allow round-the-clock patrols in the Caribbean, the Pacific or the Gulf of Fonseca," which Nicaragua shares with Honduras and El Salvador.
The three Central American countries face the challenge of preventing the gulf from becoming a regular passageway for criminal gangs and drug traffickers, he said.
Ortega said he was also negotiating with Russia to acquire helicopters, and hoped the United States would also help provide "this type of asset to Nicaragua."
He said a request for coast-guard vessels had been discussed earlier this year with visiting US emissaries, whom he did not name, and said Managua was hoping for "a positive response."
The vessels would be used "to defend Nicaragua, the region and the North American people ... from the drug invasion," Ortega added.
The Nicaraguan leader's remarks on updating the military fleet came in a speech Friday at a closed-door ceremony marking the 36th anniversary of the country's navy. It was published Saturday on the official website.
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