Nicaragua's Canal Project May Be Done But High Payouts Continue

Nicaragua's $50 billion ocean-to-ocean canal project shows a broken future, but the corresponding authorities continue to receive large sums of money from the national treasury funds for alleged canal operations.

Telemaco Talavera Siles (Advisor to the President of the Republic and Spokesman of the Commission for the Development of the Nicaragua Canal), in meeting with other government authorities. Photo: CIDH, CC.

Nicaragua's ocean-to-ocean canal project has only remained in papers with no results in more than 5 years. The latest references to the Channel and its main investor the Chinese Wang Jing, points to an almost certain failure. Wang Jing suffered multi-million dollar losses on the Chinese Stock Exchange last year; and since then, it has been known other similar setbacks in companies in which he has a stake.

In June 2013, Ortega gave the Chinese businessman Wang Jing the concession to build the canal's work at an estimated cost of 50 billion dollars, with operations of the Chinese company Hong Kong Nicaragua Development (HKND).

The Canal has lost interest since the Chinese Wang Jing lost strength and Nicaragua has no fund for a project of this magnitude. However, authorities in charge of the Canal continue to receive large amounts of money from National Treasury funds, although this project does not seem to have a future. The budget allocation is increasing every year, for example in 2013 Ortega assigned 2.1 million cordobas, the amount increased to 6.9 million cordobas in the last disbursement. Ortega is only throwing signals of success, trying to show that the course of the project is turning out to be successful.

Environmentalists believe that the canal project is a hypothesis or a failed vision, but that there are other purposes. They also believe that international investors have no interest, because it involves risking millions of dollars in a country lacking legal certainty.

In protest against the Canal in Nicaragua. Photo: Jorge Mejía peralta, CC.

Many sectors of the population have created a very hostile spot to Ortega's intentions with the Canal project. For example, since the approval of the Canal Law (840) and the granting of the concession to the Chinese company HKND Group, a robust peasant movement has prevailed, demanding the repeal of this law for fear that their land will be unjustly confiscated.

Approximately 100 marches of protests have been carried out, led by the leader Francisca Ramirez. This resistance has generated repression. Ortega, using the National Guard and the Police has repressed the Protestants, which has left dead and wounded.

Human Rights bodies such as CENIDH (Center for Human Rights of Nicaragua) and different political parties have raised national and international demands because the repression of the current government undermines freedom of expression and democracy.

In other areas, the leaders of the private sector in Nicaragua who were initially enthusiastic about the promises of HKND and the government, are still waiting for concrete actions, but has not seen any fruit.

Nicaragua's ocean-to-ocean canal project is not a real project in progress, there is no sign of seriousness, it has only left speculations and hopes broken. The only tangible result of the project is that Ortega continues to achieve its own purposes and allocates funds from the national treasury to a group that he designated, including his family members and close associates.