Following yet another series of contradictory and inauspicious statements about Nicaragua’s future canal plans, President Daniel Ortega and Chinese concessionaire Wang Jing released a joint statement yesterday announcing that construction on the canal will begin in December 2014, “as contemplated.”
The statement, signed by Ortega and Wang, president and CEO of upstart canal company HKND Group, offers no additional information about where the canal will be built, what––if any––studies have been done, how much the project will cost, or who will pay for it. The estimated price tag, which has been adjusted several times and is currently set at $40 billion, appears to be more of a guess than a calculation.
Wang had promised to announce the final canal route by the end of 2013––a date that has come and gone. The mysterious Chinese businessman initially told reporters last year that the canal route was already established and that the megaproject would be built within 10 years. Sandinista officials quickly corrected their eager business partner by saying that no canal route has been decided, and that feasibility studies would determine the best path across the country.
The details of the project became further muddled earlier this month, when Manuel Coronel Kautz, president of the Sandinista government’s Great Interoceanic Canal Authority, said the timeline had been pushed back a year. First Lady Rosario Murillo stepped in to correct the canal authority and assure Nicaraguans that the misunderstood project is moving ahead as planned –– a sentiment echoed in the memo signed Friday by Ortega and Wang.
“On the Celebration of the New Year, all the good news about this important Project, contribute, we are sure, in strengthening The Optimism, the Trust and The Hope of the Nicaraguan People, in its’ Country and in its’ Future,” reads the joint statement, released in English that was apparently translated from its original Mandarin.