Monday, December 29, 2014
Published time: December 26, 2014 12:38
The Nicaragua Canal can become an alternative route through Central America for China and Russia, as well as an alternative route for potential military use right in America’s backyard, international consultant and author Adrian Salbuchi told RT.
Nicaragua has begun the most ambitious construction project in Latin America - a waterway connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans that is supposed to become an alternative to the Panama Canal. It is 278 km long, will cost around $50 billion and provide jobs for 50,000 people. The construction is being run by a Hong Kong company and should be completed by 2020. The project is supposed to boost Nicaragua’s GDP.
Meanwhile, ecologists fear the giant ship canal will endanger Lake Nicaragua - Central America's largest lake and Nicaragua’s largest main water source – which the waterway will run through. Locals are concerned their homes and farm lands are under threat. According to some estimates, around 30,000 people may be displaced by the waterway.
RT discussed the project and protests it sparked in Nicaragua with international consultant and author Adrian Salbuchi.
RT: The residents are promised compensation. Why are they protesting? Were they misinformed about the project?
Adrian Salbuchi: It’s understandable because we are talking about the mega project that will displace many people; some estimates say as many as 30,000 farmers will be displaced. There will be an ecological impact, no doubt about it. However, I think we have to be very careful to distinguish between what is this spontaneous reaction of many of these farmers which is probably genuine, and what may also be some engineering of social convulsion from foreign powers, not only the US that had been doing that in the so-called Arab Spring and that had been doing that throughout Latin America for many decades. So I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the exaggeration or some of the future problems do come from some American agitators or Western agitators. Don’t forget this is the country which is governed by President Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista Liberation Front, who are enemies of the US for many decades.
RT: Just to push you a bit on this, do you think there may be a foreign state involved?
AS: Absolutely. And we should even take it together with what just happened with Cuba because if America is trying to bring Cuba into the fold, it might try to play a similar card with Nicaragua to try to range them away as in the case of Cuba from Russia, in the case of Nicaragua from China. We have to see not just the trade implications that are huge, and the economic implications that are also huge, as well as social and ecological, but much more so the geopolitical implications. This is a Chinese private company, but we all know that very likely behind the Chinese investment there are geopolitical factors being handled and being driven by the Chinese government quite rightly, who have an increasing interest throughout Latin America.
RT: There are a lot of expectations for the waterway. How important will it be and what benefits can it bring?
AS: For Nicaragua they will be enormous because it will definitely improve their living standards all together. But from the point of view of China it will be an alternative route for commerce, for trade and even for future potential military use right in America’s backyard. When I say China, we might talk not just about China but also about BRICS, notably Russia and China, which are the two main geopolitical BRICS partners. I think it’s very important to understand the problem, to stop looking at Mercator projections of the global map and start looking at the actual globe. The best way to understand geopolitics is with a globe, and if you look at it you will see how very important this alternative route through Central America will become for China, for Russia and potentially it’s an important threat to the US and the Western powers.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
Representantes de un grupo de trabajadores que labora en la ampliación del Canal se volvieron a sentar en la mañana de hoy lunes en la mesa de negociación con miembros del consorcio FCC-MECO-ICA para encontrar un acuerdo que termine con el paro laboral que se mantiene desde el martes 23 de diciembre.
Los trabajadores del proyecto denominado "canal de acceso del Pacífico" (Pac 4) denunciaron falta seguridad en los trabajos de excavación que ejecutan, además del pago incorrecto de horas extra.
Las partes conversan con la mediación del Ministerio de Trabajo y Desarrollo Laboral (Mitradel).
Dentro de los temas en análisis también está el despido de un trabajador que agredió físicamente al capataz de la obra.
El secretario general del Mitradel, Samuel Rivera, explicó que las peticiones laborales serán atendidas mediante auditorías que ejecutará la entidad en enero de 2015.
Sobre el despido de un obrero, Rivera manifestó que el tema está "casi resuelto" porque el trabajador ya no tiene interés de ser reintegrado sino alcanzar un mutuo acuerdo con el consorcio FCC-MECO-ICA.
El Pac 4 incluye la construcción de una represa con la que se abastecerá las nuevas esclusas del Pacífico.
ACP ACLARA SOBRE TRABAJOS
Miembros del Comité Nacional para la Defensa de la Tierra, el Lago y la Soberanía, se reunirán hoy en la ciudad de Masaya para exigir la liberación de 6 campesinos detenidos por la PolicÍa Nacional cuando protestaban contra el proyecto del canal de Nicaragua.
Los integrantes del Comité exigirán la liberación de Octavio Ortega, Iván Enriquez, Danilo LorÍo, Freddy Orozco, Jairo Lazo y Manuel Vega, capturados durante dos redadas policiales realizadas entre la noche del 23 y la madrugada del 24 de diciembre.
La posición del Comité será apoyada por organismos de la sociedad civil con sede en Masaya, a 32 kilómetros al sureste de Managua, confirmó a Acan-Efe el representante de la organización, Henry Ruiz.
La Comisión Permanente de los Derechos Humanos, CPDH, advirtió que los campesinos están detenidos de forma ilegal desde la madrugada del 26 de diciembre, puesto que no han sido entregados al Poder Judicial, tal como lo exige la legislación nicaragüense.
El Grupo Cocibolca, integrado por organizaciones científicas y ambientalistas, denunció este sábado que 16 campesinos se encuentran desaparecidos desde que la Policía ejecutó las redadas en su contra.
La Policía Nacional liberó a 27 de un total de 33 campesinos que reconoció haber detenido.
Los campesinos se oponen al canal interoceánico porque su ley creadora no les permite apelar en caso de ser expropiados.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - A magnitude 5.5 earthquake struck off Panama's Pacific coast on Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, but there were no immediate reports of damage.
The USGS said the quake, initially reported as having a magnitude of 6.0, was relatively shallow at a depth of 6.2 miles (10 km) below the seabed. It struck in the early evening 132 miles (213 km) south of the town of David.
The quake was not felt in the capital, Panama City.
(Reporting by Sandra Maler in Washington and Elida Moreno in Panama City; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Ken Wills)
Panama City (AFP) - The consortium expanding the Panama Canal is making fresh claims for cost overruns totaling $737 million, officials said Friday.
Canal administrator Jorge Quijano told reporters that the Panama Canal Authority had received two claims on Tuesday that "will be evaluated" to determine if there is probable cause.
But he warned that "at first glance, the issues will be very difficult for the counterparty to justify."
And in the latest setback for the behind-schedule, over-budget upgrade, a union representative said excavation work was on hold after negotiations broke down between the consortium and workers who have been on strike since Tuesday.
About 1,000 workers are on strike, demanding better safety and treatment. Talks between the two sides are due to resume Monday.
One of the consortium's latest claims, for $333 million, is related to the weight of the gate for the third set of locks it is building for the canal -- at 55,000 tonnes, compared to the 35,000 tonnes initially planned.
But Quijano pointed to a clause in the contract according to which the canal authority would pay up to the value of a gate weighing 49,000 tonnes.
The second claim, for $404 million, is due to delays in the fourth phase of excavation in the Pacific sector.
The consortium, Grupos Unidos por el Canal, says that the delay in excavation work may mean it will not receive water needed to test the gates.
Quijano, however, said he has a "plan B" to provide the necessary water for testing.
The canal authority will pay another $120 million in adjustments to the contract and other small claims, Quijano said.
Work began in 2007 to expand the canal with a third set of locks to enable it to handle the modern mega-freighters that global shipping companies prefer.
But the $5.25 billion project has been plagued by delays, strikes and a bitter dispute over $1.6 billion in cost overruns with the consortium carrying out the upgrade, led by Spanish construction firm Sacyr.
Initially scheduled for completion in 2014, the project's due date has been pushed back to early 2016.
Nearby Nicaragua, meanwhile, launched construction this week on a rival canal, a $50 billion project that the Chinese firm behind it plans to complete in five years.
Quijano estimated that the Nicaragua Canal construction would reduce by up to 30 percent the transit of ships through the Panama Canal, because it is closer to the lucrative market in the United States.
By Gabriel Stargardter
MANAGUA (Reuters) - When one of the poorest countries in the Americas and a little-known Chinese businessman said they planned to undertake one of the biggest engineering projects in history, few people took them seriously.
A year and a half after the $50 billion project to build a canal across Nicaragua was launched by President Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla, the doubts have only grown.
Work officially began this week. But reporters hoping to see any evidence of how it would be done in a fraction of the time it took to build the much-shorter Panama Canal, or discover who would pay for it, were left with more questions than answers.
At events marking the start of what is meant to be a five- year job, Nicaraguan officials and the Hong Kong-based company behind the canal dodged questions about its financial backers, mounting delays and whether Washington had been consulted.
So far the company, the HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co Ltd, or HKND Group, of telecoms entrepreneur Wang Jing, has identified only $200 million in funding.
Such is the skepticism that even those with most to gain from the project, whose estimated cost is four times Nicaragua's gross domestic product, acknowledge it looks far-fetched.
"The canal has one enemy and that's the lack of information," said Benjamin Lanzas, head of Nicaragua's construction industry group, who met Wang in China. "That lack of information has created a great deal of speculation, and that speculation, those expectations, have created a lot of doubt."
Supporters point to Monday's start as evidence that the plan is on schedule. But key feasibility studies on the canal have been pushed back to next April, and excavation work is not due to begin until the second half of next year.
At 172 miles (278 km), the waterway is over three times the length of the 100-year-old Panama Canal, which was completed by the United States 34 years after French engineers began it.
The five-year timetable in Nicaragua has led many to surmise the Chinese government is secretly bankrolling the plan, which both China and Wang have repeatedly denied.
Yet Wang's reluctance to reveal his backers or much of his business background has failed to dispel suspicions.
"If the canal goes ahead ... it will be because the Chinese government wants it to, and the financing will come from China's various state firms," said Arturo Cruz of the INCAE business school, an ex-Nicaraguan ambassador to the United States.
Ortega has sought to allay fears that China is gaining a strategic foothold in Central America.
"The Chinese haven't arrived in Nicaragua with occupying troops," he said during a speech this week.
For now, China's government can stay aloof and claim no part in the project in case it founders, experts say.
"If the Chinese government is behind this project, it has to be responsible for everything," said an official from Taiwan's embassy in Nicaragua, speaking on condition of anonymity. "If it fails, that's a bad image. They have to maintain their distance."
China's involvement would be a direct challenge to the United States, which controlled the Panama Canal until 1999.
The U.S. Embassy declined to comment, even though Nicaragua says the United States has welcomed the project.
Regardless of whether the canal is built, China's presence in Central America looks likely to be strengthened.
"The aim is the canal," said Cruz, the ex-ambassador. "But even if they only build a Caribbean port, this country will have achieved something it hasn't managed in 500 years."
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Ivan Castro in Managua; Editing by Dave Graham and Dan Grebler)