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20 years

Chinese-planned canal would displace many in Nicaragua, sparking anger and anxiety

June 22nd, 2015 -

LA UNION, Nicaragua — Everything in the path of the proposed trans-oceanic canal in Nicaragua would have to be relocated. Churches. Cemeteries. Stockyards. As many as 28,000 people scattered in villages and towns face the likelihood that their lands would be expropriated. The government pledges they will be better off, living in new settlements with a…

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  • disgusted

    So is this Canal a smoke screen for a Chinese land grab? Has Ortega been a sell out to this Chinese company? 6.2 miles x 2=12.4 miles across the country That Chinese will control? Is that right? Thinking a canal going to be built in 4 years I have my doubts. I guess Ortega with his army can pick off one rancher at a time removing them. Something here really stinks!

  • prdatki

    This is what happen when you vote for a Commie, Ortega should be hanged and so should the Fool in Venezuela!

  • Ken Morris

    Public works projects always expropriate private property, and big public works projects expropriate a lot of it. Heck, my 90-year-old mother just lost part of her property to a county road-widening project in a bright red US state (sorry, expropriation isn’t only a commie thing) while my local pool hall gave way to a University of Costa Rica expansion (drat). Expropriation of private property happens all the time.

    The main issues in Nicaragua are the scale of the necessary expropriations, the involvement of the Chinese in the canal, and the fear that the compensation for the properties expropriated won’t be fair.

    Of these issues, only that of fair compensation has merit. The authorities have not been clear about how expropriated property will be valued–or rather they have been clear by saying that they alone will determine the value and there will be no right to appeal. Not a good start.

    However, we need to wait to see how this shakes out before we become all riled about it. If the authorities have an ounce of sense, which I think they do (and this article suggests they do), they will be scrupulously fair and most people will be satisified with their compensation and/or relocation.

    Also, just because the owner of four rural shacks and a bar demands $400,000 for property worth maybe a tenth that doesn’t mean that the rest of us should get out our violins and scream dictatorship. Some people are so bent on screwing the government that nothing short of, well, a $360,000 windfall will satisfy them.

    Let’s see how it shakes out for the majority before we become hot-headed anti-canal crusaders.

    Meanwhile, we could all do with a little less anti-Chinese prejudice while remembering the magnitude of the project. If I have my history right, the construction of the good old capitalist Panama Canal required nothing less than a blasted US-backed political revolution as well as the importation of thousands of Chinese and African laborers.

    Things can be a lot worse in this canal-building business than they are in Nicaragua now.

    Our job, as I see it, is to dog this issue of fair compensation for expropriated private property and raise a stink the moment that compensation is less than fair. However, that moment hasn’t yet arrived, and may never arrive. At this point all we have are grumblings about what might happen among the usual Ortega-haters and a smattering of rural folk with dollar signs for eyeballs.

    • zzzzz

      I quite agree with you. People are just anti Nicaragua and anti China at every turn. Panama used to belong to Columbia, talk aboutabout expropriation, that’s a rather big one. This canal is going to compete and so they are bad people, that’s the way it works

    • SDPUS

      I agree with your sentiment, but don’t forget about the most important aspect. The environment. Governments have never really been too concerned about environmental damage, but are we not at a point in time where we should be concerned? The economics will work its way out. But there is no replacing these habitats once they are gone. And where do they put all this dirt? The environmental aspect deserves more transparency.

      • Ken Morris

        I agree that “the environmental aspect deserves more transparency” (although I understand that there is a reputable firm undertaking an impact study, albeit it is being rushed) but disagree with your both your assertions that the environment is the “most important aspect” and that “the economics will work its way out.”

        Actually, if we go by the last 40-odd years, the economics in Nicaragua have a nasty way of not working themselves out for upwards of a couple million people. It’s for this very reason that a bold super-project like a canal appeals to me, when it otherwise wouldn’t. Nothing else has worked, and the consequences have been misery and even starvation.

        So no way to agree that the environment is the “most important aspect.” To my mind, the people are the most important aspect.

        Now, I’m one who generally believes that there isn’t necessarily a a huge conflict between protecting the environment and economic development, so I would really like to see this canal (if it is built) have as minimal a deleterious impact on the environment as possible. However, I’m not naive enough to believe that it won’t have any deleterious impact, even under the best of circumstances. Some environmental degradation probably goes with the territory. Heck, you can’t build a sidewalk without that, and a canal will be a hell of a lot more destructive than a sidewalk. I’m also fairly certain that mistakes will be made. They always are. I think that the best we can hope for (and lobby for) is a minimal environmental impact, all things considered.

        However, when the issue comes down to a trade-off between protecting the environment versus protecting the people (who last I looked are part of the environment) I side with protecting the people.

        What we don’t know at this point is how much of the environmentalists’ opposition to the canal is (a) sensitive to the trade-offs between protecting the environment and protecting people and simply trying to do the right thing, versus how much of it is just (b) hatred of Ortega and/or the Chinese using feigned concerns over the environment as a pretext, or (c) people who don’t give a shit about poor people and would rather preserve swamps than people. I consider myself in the (a) group but have zero use for (b) or (c).

        • SDPUS

          By economics working its way out, I simply believe that the people who will have their land expropriated, have more of a voice. Yes, they are of the impoverished class, but they will continue to make their concerns loudly voiced. I too believe that this will eventually result in fair compensation. In another sense, it mentioned that around 28,000 will be displaced. That is a nominal # considering the long term benefit of a working canal. The people should always be first. And by the “people”, I mean all the people. If their drinking water is impacted, then that will benefit nobody. The environmental scanning and engineering of a project of this magnitude is grandiose. There will be unintended consequences. Transparency in the process will naturally alleviate some of the problems. The more eyes the better.

          • SDPUS
          • Ken Morris

            I want to say that there is no disagreement, but actually there may be. I am not yet sure that there will be fair compensation for expropriated property–or clean drinking water for that matter. I have a lot more confidence in Ortega doing the right thing than most people, but even I am of the “trust but verify” school. Yes, the more eyes the better. Let’s not obstruct, but let’s dog this thing as best as we can to make sure that it doesn’t implode, which it could very well do. I mean, Ortega’s business experience amounts to having worked in his family’s pulperia and robbed banks, while the Chinese company is secretive. Now they’re building a canal. The more eyes the better, for sure.

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