Since it was completed 100 years ago, the Panama Canal has been the only shipping route through the land mass of the Americas. Controlled by the US for most of its history, it allows ships to navigate between Pacific and Atlantic oceans without having to sail all the way to the tip of South America, through the infamous Magellan Strait. This makes it one of the world’s most important economic arteries.
But on December 22, 2014, work began on a new canal route in the region, in what is one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects of our time. The Interoceanic Grand Canal of Nicaragua will take five years to build over some 278 miles, traversing several major rivers and also Lake Nicaragua, the largest freshwater reserve in Central America. Having been discussed for some 200 years, it is expected to cost $50bn (£32bn), nearly five times the country’s annual GDP.
The project resulted from the Nicaraguan national assembly agreeing a 50-year concession with the Chinese company Hong Kong Nicaragua Development (HKND) – with the potential for a 50-year renewal thereafter. The canal will allow the passage of the world’s largest ships, some of which will be too big for the Panama Canal even after its current expansion project has completed. This presentation will use the story(ies) of this new mega-project to analyse the actual Nicaraguayan political configuration.