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China May Regret Its $50 Billion Money Pit In Nicaragua

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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There is reportedly no end in sight for the construction of an increasingly mythical project of a Chinese-funded canal across Nicaragua — a waterway that would compete with the U.S.-funded Panama Canal.

The no-bid contract to build the canal was offered to construction firm Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Group (HKND), which is led by Chinese billionaire businessman Wang Jing. The Nicaraguan economy is only worth $12 billion annually, standing in sharp contrast to the $50 billion contract HKND was granted to build the canal.

HKND is based in Hong Kong but also has offices in the Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. Wang made his fortune in the telecoms industry and is the 67th richest man in China and the 195th richest man in the world, according to Forbes. The Chinese businessman has a net worth of $1.93 billion.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is firmly behind the plan despite the increased volatility in Chinese markets and a lack of visible progress regarding canal construction, according to Bloomberg. Construction is a year behind schedule and environmental impact studies, which are necessary for construction to begin, are not ready yet.

Besides facing internal organizational problems, the proposed Nicaraguan Canal faces competition from the Panama Canal, which is currently undergoing a $5.3 billion expansion. It is suspected that the canal will never be built, and is simply an attempt by China to demonstrate its reach in the Western Hemisphere, according to Bloomberg Business.

Amnesty International came out with a press release Tuesday criticizing Ortega and his plans to go ahead with the construction of the proposed canal. The international human rights NGO claimed the canal’s construction process which will displace “tens of thousands of people putting their livelihoods at risk.” This project particularly impacts “indigenous and afro-descendent Rama-Kriol communities.”

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