Forging Ahead With the Nicaragua Canal

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

On December 22nd, work will officially commence on the building of the trans-oceanic canal in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan government had been planning for years to build a new and more modern canal that would bisect the country and serve as a rival canal to Panama’s canal. The work will be carried out by a Chinese consortium known as HKND. Much is riding on the building of this new canal. First, it will provide work for tens of thousands of Nicaraguans who need work for themselves and their families. Second, the project will bring in many foreign companies who will want to set up shop when the canal is completed. Finally, the number of ships passing through the canal will bring in revenue the Nicaraguan government needs. So it all sounds like a win-win situation, right?

Well, maybe not. Every Nicaraguan environmental group is against the project. Why? It will be built through Lake Nicaragua, where much of the country gets its fresh water. It will also be built through some of Nicaragua’s rain forests—habitats of the country’s rare flora and fauna. No environmental impact study has been done yet to assess what it will do to the countryside. An environmental impact study is scheduled to be done in April—months after the project has already started. It seems by design that the Nicaraguan government did this to prevent any chances of the project being stopped or delayed. Another problem is the United States. The U.S. government is looking at this project with a great deal of caution. Since the project is going to be handled by a Chinese company, the U.S. government is concerned that the Chinese government will be granted exclusive rights over the running of the canal, and that the Nicaraguan government is giving the Chinese government too much say in business contracts and business investments in Nicaragua.

At the same time, the Nicaraguan government cannot forgo the project. Too much money, not to mention the policies of the Nicaraguan government, are at stake. For years, the Nicaraguan government, and current Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, had promised the people jobs, investments, and improvement in the country’s infrastructure with the project. Dropping it now would mean almost certain doom for the Sandinista party now in control. More than that, it would mean the country’s unemployment rate would remain a problem and many Nicaraguans would leave the country as had occurred before. So there is no way that the Sandinista government would stop or delay the canal project any longer. The big question is will there be consequences for the building of this canal? Only time will tell whether overall this project is a success or a failure.

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