Nicaraguans rise up against Chinese canal
NUEVA GUINEA, Nicaragua — Nicaragua’s muddy countryside rumbled under the staccato of horse hooves and rubber boots on Tuesday as more than 1,000 campesinos marched through Nueva Guinea to protest the construction of a $50-billion, privately owned Chinese canal that would rival Panama’s interoceanic waterway.
Under the banners “Our land is not for sale!” and “Chinaman, go home!” Nicaraguan farmers and cowboys vowed to defend their properties from government expropriation and Chinese encroachment.
“I would rather die than hand over my property,” march organizer Francisca Ramirez, 39, told Fusion in a phone interview from Nueva Guinea, 175 miles east of the capital. “The people living in this region are already living in extreme poverty. Where are we supposed to go if the government kicks us off our land?”
Suspicions of Nicaragua’s left-wing Sandinista government have turned to alarm as the country’s perpetual president, Daniel Ortega, hatched a perplexing partnership with enigmatic Chinese businessman Wang Jing in 2013. Now, the two are preparing to expropriate land from 7,000 mostly poor Nicaraguan families to make way for an ill-conceived 172-mile canal megaproject that many doubt will ever get funded, much less built.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Wang Jing (photo/ AFP)
More than a year after the president’s Sandinista Front rushed a sovereignty-compromising concession law through his rubber-stamp congress, Nicaraguans still don’t know how much the Chinese canal will cost, who will pay for it, whose land will be confiscated, or what the environmental impacts will be on the country’s expansive Lake Cocibolca, considered by many to be the future source of drinking water for all of Central America.
I’ve been following this developing story and am trying to read the tea leaves here since the whole process is so non-transparent that the waters are muddier then the Mississippi river. (Mix your metaphors much?) I’ve been leaning towards the worst case scenario being that which actually comes into being, but this article by Tim Rogers pretty much is an additional strong data point indicating that will be the case here with the Interoceanic Canal of Nicaragua. It’s a Chinese land grab. The canal won’t be built, at least completely. They’ll just get a hold of a bunch of land, screw up the environment as much as possible without actually completing the canal, leaving Nicaragua with all of the problems and none of the potential benefits.
All I can say to the prospective visitor to Nicaragua who actually wants to see the natural environment that is as deep and dark (and biodiverse) as anything the Amazon can dish up best get their butts down here ASAP. Do it in 2015 would be my advice!