With Chinese help, Nicaragua plans to rival Panama Canal

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Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega shook hands with Barack Obama. It was a formal greeting full of symbolism for the Sandinista ex-guerrilla, who was one of the main enemies of the United States in the eighties, as Bulletin Panama reports.

After the greeting, Ortega, surrounded by his colleagues at the Central American SICA summit, held in early May in San Jose, Costa Rica, announced to Obama without preamble: “Mr. President, we are going to build the Nicaragua canal, we are working with a Chinese company, and we would like it to be clear that American investors can participate in this project.”

Ortega has dusted off the old Nicaraguan dream to climb out of misery with a canal linking the Pacific and Caribbean.

The idea is so deep in Nicaragua ideology that the mere mention by a president arouses passions in a country where 47% of the population lives in poverty.

Nicaragua’s government said it has worked directly with “a great company of the Republic of China” on the canal construction project, the cost of which, according to Ortega, could exceed $40,000 million. Nicaragua has already established an Office of the Grand Canal in Hong Kong, although it has not yet officially reported the name of the Chinese company that would be interested in the Pharaonic project. It could be Xinwei Telecommunications Company, which administers Nicaragua’s telecommunications, known as Telcor and which last year was granted a license to operate the country’s communication system.

Last year, ProNicaragua, a public-private agency for investment promotion announced it had signed a “memorandum of understanding” with a newly formed company, based in Hong Kong: HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd., whose president is Wang Ji, who also directs Xinwei Telecom Enterprise Group.

The Nicaraguan government awarded a consortium formed by the Dutch companies Royal HaskoningDHV and ECORYS, the contract to conduct a feasibility study for the construction of a canal. The study, whose cost amounted to $720,000, should have submitted it at the beginning of this year, but the Government has not yet reported its findings.

Salvador Montenegro, director of the National Autonomous Center for Water Resources Research at the University of Nicaragua (UNITE), said the Nicaraguan canal would not be competition for Panama, which is in full expansion. Montenegro proposed that a Nicaraguan canal would be capable of receiving vessels up to 250,000 metric tons, with locks of 460 meters and a depth greater than 20 meters.

So far no government official would say what route it would take, although President Ortega said it would not be on the river San Juan, on the border with Costa Rica. Some commentators believe that the project could be developed taking the recommended routes for a multidisciplinary study presented in 2006 by President Enrique Bolaños, who suggested the canal construction starting on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, near Bluefields, advancing along rivers within Nicaraguan territory and through the Great Lake of Nicaragua, over eight thousand square kilometers, a distance of 280 kilometers.

Carlos Fernando Chamorro, the most respected Nicaraguan journalist, recalled in his daily television program that Ortega has promised in the past other mega projects such as the construction of a refinery financed by Venezuela with an investment of $4,000 million.

This post is also available in: Spanish

For the original report go to http://thebulletinpanama.com/with-chinese-help-nicaragua-plans-to-rival-panama-canal

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