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Secrecy and doubt shroud Nicaragua’s huge canal plans


NICARAGUA NEWS (Los Angeles Times) — The Chinese engineers passed by Antonio Cardenas’ dusty plot of land the other day. They didn’t say anything to him. They never do.

In this town on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, a withering drought is scorching farmland and parching cattle. Once-green fields have turned yellow-brown. The Brito River is nothing but a dry ravine.

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But the Chinese engineers and the people who hired them see something different. They see a $50-billion shipping canal that would divide Nicaragua in two as it traveled from the Pacific to the Caribbean, bisect Central America’s largest lake like an engineering Moses, and dwarf the 100-year-old Panama Canal.

Cardenas, 32, grew up on this land. Brick and wood shacks with concrete floors are the only buildings on the plot. Two girls swung in a hammock and a baby did not stop crying. Eight somewhat bony cows stood behind a wire fence.

“They pass by, tell us nothing,” Cardenas said of the engineers. “Are they going to pay us? Give us other land? Send us to live on some mountain?”

Nearby, Jose Miguel Alvarez has been planting bean, corn and banana, and raising cattle, on his plot for 30 years. Even amid the drought, fruit trees and bougainvillea on the property were surprisingly lush; a small concrete swimming hole sat empty but spoke to future dreams.
“When I came here, there was nothing,” he said. “I wouldn’t sell it for anything. This is my children’s patrimony.”

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