Note: This is a very good overview regarding the ‘Mega Canal’ project in Nicagraua from our friends, Wales Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign – Ymgyrch Cefnogi Nicaragua Cymru, a Welsh group doing solidarity work since 1986. They are also struggling to maintain the the Welsh language, a hard task considering that the British and the English language ‘control the British Isles.’ But that is another story. The Welsh group brought me to Wales in 2002 for a speaking tour that also traveled through England, and Ireland. The tour also addressed the Plan Puebla Panama–a series of massive development schemes and transportation corridors running from Puebla, Mexico to Panama–which was a major target of solidarity activists internationally.
I have travelled to Nicaragua many times and have always been a critic of proposed Dry or Wet Canals in that country as well as the Dry Canal planned for the Isthmus of Tehuantepec for two major reasons: 1) the indigenous peoples and the community organizations we spoke to were against it, and 2) it will have an unimaginable impact on the ecology of the region. A debate is well underway in Nicaragua.
There is a lot at stake for the leftist Sandinista Nicaraguan government, indigenous sovereignty, autonomy and of course the environment itself. This is an important topic that spans many issues of neoliberal globalization, including climate change. Ironically the following quote in this article points out, “Nicaragua’s dream of building the canal might now be too late to work in practice. One of the clear effects of climate change is the opening up of the Northwest Arctic passage, which might make both the Nicaraguan and Panamanian canal uneconomical for part of the year.”
-Orin Langelle for the GJEP Team
June 28, 2013. Source: Wales Nicaragua
Following our last post, the world has suddenly woken up to a new story about Nicaragua – the inter-oceanic canal. The Guardian carried its second story in as many weeks about the project (see here). Though the idea of the canal might be new to most of the media, it isn’t new to the Campaign.
Anyone who knows the history of Nicaragua will know that the country was in the frame to be the original crossing for the isthmus. That it eventually ended up in Panama had much to do with the geo-politics of the time – and what the United States decided was in its best interests. Throughout the following century, a second canal has been proposed, usually through Nicaragua, sometimes through Mexico. It also has undergone many different permutations – a canal, pure and simple; a canal to Lake Nicaragua, and then make use of a natural waterway; or a ‘dry canal’, Pacific and Atlantic ports connected by a railway. Or, indeed, various combinations of the three.
The last bout of ‘canal fever’ started to gather pace at the end of the 90s. The Plan Puebla Panama was envisioned as a grand mega-project, linking the telecommunications, energy and road networks of Central America (for an unusual take on the PPP, see here for the Beehive Collective). It stemmed from an off-the-cuff remark by the Mexican President. It soon turned into multi-billion dollar plans, backed by the international finance institutions and various Western governments, who could smell the contracts. One of the proposals on the table was the canal. At the time (at the beginning of the noughties) the most probable route was going to be a dry canal, making use of the port of Bilwi in the North Caribbean, or in another variation, Monkey Point in the South Caribbean. The Campaign spent many months (and years) following the proposals, highlighting the deficiencies of the Plan Puebla Panama in general, and the dry canal in particular. During that time there were no serious proposals to build the canal. To the Campaign it looked to be a means of land speculation along its proposed route, something which would effect indigenous lands particularly.