Nicaragua Canal: What happened with Ortega's project?

Since 2013, the Nicaraguan canal has been the subject of strong criticism and little by little it has been losing credibility. Nowadays, the sole existence of the project remains in doubt

Nicaragua Canal: What happened with Ortega's project?

In 2013, the president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, presented his great project to transform his country into what he called a "promised land": to build an interoceanic canal that would rival the Panama Canal and give Nicaragua a dividend that, in the words of the president, would double the GDP. To develop this project, a tender was opened and awarded to the Chinese billionaire Wang Jing, head of the Hong Kong Nicaragua Development Corporation (HKNDC).

Leer en español: Canal de Nicaragua: ¿Qué sucedió con el proyecto de Ortega?

Four years later, the international community turned its eyes again on Nicaragua, as the signs were increasingly "worrying" for the development of the project. According to the HKNDC corporation, in the first semester of 2017 should begin the construction of the canal, which would lead to environmental and social problems.

Repeatedly, several Nicaraguan sectors have protested the lack of technical, environmental and social studies that would end up affecting a large number of families, about 120,000 according to Amnesty International figures. However, Nicaraguan daily life has not been affected so far due to the development of the canal, which is why the whole project is considered a great fraud.

And where is Wang Jing?

Parallel to the problems presented in Nicaragua, the canal has faced another great challenge for its development: the "disappearance" of Wang Jing, the Chinese billionaire, owner of HKNDC and promoter of different projects in Nicaragua, apart from the canal. In 2015, Wang Jing lost close to 85% of his fortune in the Hong Kong stock market, which caused his economic solvency to plummet and his business gradually to decline.

From that moment, the millionaire was not seen in Nicaragua and there were no more pronouncements or meetings, both in the Central American country and with the Chinese organization. It is necessary to bear in mind that Wang Jing supported the canal project with part of his personal fortune, which was deeply affected after the stock market crash.

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More worrisome is what was expressed by the economic magazine Bloomberg in April this year, who says that Wang Jing did not renew the contract of his office in the most luxurious skyscraper in Hong Kong and that his whereabouts are unknown. A real setback for Ortega.

What is the future of the canal?

According to an interview by the news agency EFE with Daniel Ortega, the canal continues regardless of what has happened. According to the president, the works have been delayed because there were environmental problems that had to be solved before they could start. But he was optimistic, saying he has the support of the majority of the country, despite having some groups that have closed ranks against the project.

However, the Nicaraguan president did not offer construction dates or exact references to the situation of the HKNDC organization or its current relationship with Nicaragua.

Even contemplating the statements of President Ortega, the truth is that there are still countless unknowns around the project. In addition to the whereabouts of investor Wang Jing, the possible environmental impact of the project and the treatment that will be given to native indigenous populations in the area where the canal would be built are of concern.

LatinAmerican Post | Jorge Ovalle

Translated from "Canal de Nicaragua: ¿Qué sucedió con el proyecto de Ortega?"

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