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lunes, julio 30, 2012

The Nicaragua Canal?

You cannot make this stuff up. Does Central America need a huge infrastructure project to compete with the Panama Canal? Evidently, Daniel Ortega thinks it does. And he's not alone:

President Daniel Ortega brought back from the ashes of the national imaginary what The Nicaraguan Dispatch dubbed as Nicaragua’s ‘500-year-old canal fantasy,’ which Ortega promised to fulfill following his return to power in 2006.

Out of the various canal projects which have surfaced over the past decade, it seems Ortega has put his sights on the most ambitious – the Grand Inter-Oceanic Aquatic Canal of Nicaragua, whose construction is estimated at approximately US$350m.

On 6 June, the government submitted a draft bill to the country’s National Assembly for the construction of a canal which would connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and thus serve as an alternative to its Panamanian counterpart....

The Nicaraguan canal ‘fantasy’ is certainly not new, dating back to colonial times when a Spanish royal decree was issued to explore a possible trade route between the San Juan river and Lake Nicaragua.

In the 19th century, the U.S. became the main patron of Nicaragua’s inter-oceanic ambitions, reaching an agreement with the Central American nation for a co-owned canal in 1884, which went down the drain in the early 1900’s in favour of Panama and its own canal project.

And today, in case anyone thought this was some kind of Central American inside baseball, The New York Times reports:

Two Dutch companies say they have been awarded a $720,000 (€587,000) contract by the Nicaraguan government to study the feasibility of building a rival to the Panama canal that would travel through Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Since the early 1800s, the so-called "Nicaragua Canal" has been considered a serious possibility as a route that could link the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, though the Panama Canal ultimately won out. Some experts believe the growth of global shipping means that two canals through Central America would benefit the industry, especially if a Nicaragua Canal could accommodate larger ships.

Infrastructure company Royal HaaskoningDHV and Ecorys said Monday they will complete their study by early 2013. The Nicaraguan government has loosely estimated construction costs at $20 billion and would seek international investors.

Speaking of fantasies, these stories reminded of Werner Herzog's 1982 film,Fitzcarraldo and its devastating attempt to haul a 320 ton riverboat over a hill for a portage. Only in this case, the ships will be much larger.

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