The Nicaragua Canal, that project of Dubious Plans and Abundant Unknowns, is back in the news.
It appears that HKND Group by now has feasibility studies, property surveys, an environmental impact review and exploratory drilling, according to the Wall Street Journal, but
Still unclear is whether the canal will be built.
However, the proposed canal may be a useful pretext in Daniel Ortega’s road to dictatorship:
Nicaraguan Canal Plan Riles Landholders
Sandinista push to build Chinese-led shipping route across country sparks concerns over property rights. 642 square miles, to be precise (emphasis added):
But to make room for the waterway, ports, roads and free-trade zones, the company says it needs 642 square miles. Nicaraguan government officials justify the pending expropriations, which would uproot 27,000 people, saying the canal will transform this impoverished Central American nation by creating 50,000 jobs and doubling the economy.
Though the government has yet to seize a single acre, HKND Group says it will pay market prices for confiscated acreage. However, a 2013 law authorizing the government to expropriate any land needed for the canal says payments will be based on each property’s assessed tax value, figures that are usually much lower.
Then there’s this,
“Nothing is going on with the canal because there is not yet any money deposited for it,” said Bayardo Arce, the top economic adviser to President Daniel Ortega.
Say again? A project this big,
and “there is not yet any money deposited for it“?
And, if that’s not bad enough,
More than one-third of the canal’s route skips dry ground altogether by cutting across Lake Nicaragua, the largest reservoir of drinking water in Central America.
Back in the 1980s, Ortega expropriated more than 1.5 million acres, including properties belonging to opposition leaders. The canal project, even (especially?) if no canal actually is built, may serve Ortega’s purposes after all.