Nicaragua Hopes to Fast-Track Major Canal Project

Byline: Associated Press/Luis Galeano

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Nicaragua is trying to revive a centuries-old dream of building an inter-ocean canal — a project experts said could take 11 years to build, cost $40 billion and require digging about 130 miles of waterway.

The government is seeking to rush approval of a canal linking the Pacific to the Atlantic through the country’s congress in less than two weeks, in a nation that doesn’t even yet have a paved road connecting the two oceans. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega presented the project plan on June 4.

The Nicaraguan canal’s promoters believe that the canal could capture 4.5 percent of world maritime freight traffic and earn 22 percent profits by 2025. It could also create 40,000 construction jobs and essentially double the per-capita GDP of Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

Just as the Panama Canal was a projection of growing U.S. power at the start of the 20th century, the Nicaragua project is an expression of China’s growing influence and financial clout around the world. The Nicaraguan government plans to grant a Chinese company the canal concession for 100 years.

Hong Kong-registered HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd. has an office in the Nicaraguan capital. “Our intention is to build a world-class project, with high standards,” the firm said.

“I think it is urgently necessary to solve problems like unemployment and making Nicaragua more attractive to investors, and that’s why we should approve this speedily,” said Erwin Castro, a congressman from Ortega’s Sandinista Front.

— Additional reporting from Juan Zamorano and Mark Stevenson

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