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Nicaragua canal fast-tracked with Chinese boost

June 8, 2013 • Business


A boater navigates over Cocibolca Lake, also known as Nicaragua Lake, near Granada, Nicaragua, Friday, June 7, 2013. A concession to build a canal across Nicaragua linking the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, which would go through the waters of Lake Nicaragua, will be awarded to a Chinese company, the National Assembly president said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — For centuries, tycoons and adventurers alike have dreamed of building a canal through Nicaragua between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and riding a boom in international trade to new riches. Up until now, however, all comers were forced to admit defeat when faced with the sheer challenge of building a man-made river through dense, hilly jungle.

Now, the old dream is attracting a new hopeful, and this time from the other side of the world.

The Chinese company, HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd., is working with the Nicaraguan government on a massive canal project experts say could take 11 years to finish, cost $40 billion and require digging about 130 miles (200 kilometers) of waterway.

Canal proponents say the waterway could create 40,000 construction jobs and essentially double the per-capita gross domestic product of Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in Latin America. The government plans to grant the Chinese company a concession for 100 years.

That’s sparked hopes of an economic gold rush in Nicaragua, and President Daniel Ortega has pushed approval of the canal through the country’s congress. Ortega presented the canal proposal Tuesday and hopes to submit it to at least an initial vote on Monday, with final approval planned by next Thursday.

“This is a question of a project that is very important for the country, and that is why it is being given urgent priority,” said congressional leader Rene Nunez, an Ortega supporter.

The opposition Sandinista Renovation Movement, which split in 1995 from Ortega, has tried to slow down the debate by demanding more information about the developers, while other critics have questioned the plan’s viability just a few hundred miles northwest of the Panama Canal.

The Chinese company’s director, Wang Jing, is also listed in the same role in 12 other existing or Login to read more

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