MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Teams of assessors accompanied by soldiers and police have begun surveying properties along the route of Nicaragua’s planned interoceanic canal, taking quick steps toward the start of a vast project the country has dreamed of for more than a century.
But the process is alarming many residents, who say they fear they’ll lose their homes and receive unfair compensation.
Teams from the China-based HKND Group this month began interviewing property owners in the Brito River region in southwest Nicaragua, where the first phase of the $40 billion, 173-mile (278-kilometer) canal is supposed to be built starting late this year.
“The census is normal. We had announced that we would go house by house, farm by farm, to see what they have, what they don’t have,” Canal Commission spokesman Telemaco Talavera said Tuesday. He said the purpose is to assess the value of properties “to pay them what is just for each one.”
But some property owners have complained that the joint Chinese-Nicaraguan teams are accompanied by police or soldiers, as well as representatives of the attorney general’s office.
So here is where the first major challenge is with this “canal project.” I put quotation marks on it because if I were to guess, this is just a way for the current Nicaraguan government to get back into the land confiscation business, albeit this time with a veneer of legitimacy due to the outlandish terms of the agreement made with HKND, the Chinese firm that has the contract to build and operate the canal.
I find it interesting that the path of the proposed canal also happens to be some of the most highly valued properties in Nicaragua. Lakefront, oceanfront, along the corridors of movement of goods and people, etc.