Nicaragua approves China-backed canal plan
Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega and Chinese business magnate Wang Jing on June 14 formally sealed a pact granting Wang exclusive rights to build a multi-billion-dollar inter-oceanic canal through the Central American nation—the night after the country's National Assembly, dominated by Ortega's Sandinista Front, voted up Law 840, a bill approving the project, by 61-25. Wang's HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. will start with a study to determine whether the project is viable. Under the plan, the company would have a 50-year contract to develop and run the canal, with Nicaragua receiving a minority share of any profits. Ortega pledges the project will eradicate poverty in the country, one of the hemisphere's poorest. "This is a historic day for Nicaragua... a day of fulfilling prophecies and realizing dreams," said first lady Rosario Murillo, during the nationally televised ceremony. Murillo called it a "day of miracles" and said the canal project represents a "prophecy of prosperity for Nicaraguan families."
"One of Nicaragua's great riches is its geographic position," Sandinista congressman Jacinto Suarez said during debate on Law 840. "That's why this idea has always been around... Global trade demands that this canal is built because it's necessary. The data show that maritime transport is constantly growing and that makes this feasible. Opposing it is unpatriotic."
However, Bill Wild, chief project adviser for HK Nicaragua, was more cautious in his own comments. "There's a compelling commercial reason to build the canal," he said. "We have to prove now that the actual rate of return that the investors will get is adequate." (Nicaragua Dispatch, June 15; AP, June 14)