FROM THE JANUARY 21, 2015 ISSUE
What's Behind the Nicaragua Canal Controversy?
The U.S. Embassy in Managua on Jan. 6 expressed concerns about a lack of transparency surrounding the proposed $50 billion project to build a canal across Nicaragua. In 2013, the Central American country granted HKND Group a 50-year concession without opening bids to other companies. The Hong Kong-based company has not released the names of investors backing the project, and the government has released no environmental impact or feasibility studies. In recent weeks, protests against the canal have escalated and turned violent, with more than 20 injuries, and police officers allegedly harassed and detained journalists attempting to cover the canal's groundbreaking last month. What is behind the perceived lack of transparency surrounding the project? Will protesters succeed in halting the canal's construction? How is the controversy affecting President Daniel Ortega's government and domestic politics ahead of national elections scheduled for 2016?
Robert Callahan, former U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua: "It seems to me that when a project lacks transparency, then those in charge--the Ortega government and the Chinese--want to hide something from the public. That would seem to be especially true when that project will cost at least $60 billion, or almost 10 times Nicaragua's GDP. Now, why would they want to keep it largely secret? I can think of several possibilities ..." MORE
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