July 11, 2018 / 10:27 PM / 4 months ago

Mexico's president-elect will cancel planned U.S. helicopter order

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would cancel the planned purchase of eight military helicopters from the United States as part of cost-cutting measures.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Navy Sailors participate in a medical training exercise on the deck of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) with an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter, in the South China Sea, October 28, 2015, provided by the U.S. Navy. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corey T. Jones/Handout via Reuters

Lopez Obrador, who handily won this month’s presidential election on pledges to fight corruption and cut government waste, said there had been plans to pay 26 billion pesos ($1.36 billion) for the helicopters to be used by Mexico’s navy.

“This purchase is going to be canceled because we can not make this expenditure,” Lopez Obrador told reporters on Wednesday after meeting with incoming legislators from his MORENA party.

Lopez Obrador is due to take office on Dec. 1.

In April, the U.S. government said Mexico had requested to buy eight MH-60R Seahawk multi-mission helicopters and that the sale would strengthen Mexico’s ability to fight criminal organizations.

The U.S. State Department approved the sale of the helicopters, which are built by Lockheed Martin, a Pentagon agency said in April.

Drug cartels have been increasingly moving shipments of cocaine from a glut of South American production via maritime routes into Mexico, according to U.S. and Mexican officials.

Mexico’s secretary of the navy did not immediately respond to a request for information.

Lopez Obrador has announced plans to shake up the strategy in the nation’s battle against drug traffickers by suggesting a negotiated peace and amnesty for some of the very people currently targeted by security forces.

His pick for the interior ministry, Olga Sanchez, has said the new government will look into decriminalizing marijuana and regulating opium for pharmaceutical use.

Reporting by Dave Graham and Michael O'Boyle; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

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