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  • President Daniel Ortega with Naval commanders on Tuesday

    President Daniel Ortega with Naval commanders on Tuesday | Photo: El19Digital

Published 14 August 2019

President Ortega also announced that he would revise initial plans and launch new environmental studies to ensure that concerns are taken into account.

Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega announced Tuesday that the Sandinista government had not given up on attempts to build an interoceanic canal, and would be doubling down on efforts to make the mega-project a reality. The U.S. had tried to impede previous attempts as they were concerned that a Nicaragua canal, outside their sphere of influence, would weaken the importance of the U.S. dominated Panama canal. 

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Though the project had been put on ice in the past year, at an official ceremony on Tuesday, marking the 39th Anniversary of the post-revolution Naval Force, President Daniel Ortega said, “We have not resigned, on the contrary, we have a historic commitment to the Nicaraguan people, to make the canal through Nicaragua a reality.”

The project had faced opposition from envimantelist and Indigenous people but Ortega announced that he would revise initial plans and launch new environmental studies to ensure that concerns are taken into account.

“We are not talking about a project that comes to damage [the environment], it comes to strengthen trade and to give Nicaragua the resources to allow us greater development, greater growth and therefore improve the economic conditions of all Nicaraguan families,” he said.  

The canal project has been a historically contested issue for over 100 years. The U.S. was interested in building a canal it could control, through Central America. They eyed both Panama and Nicaragua as options, going as far as signing the ‘Bryan-Chamorro Treaty’ in Washington in 1914 which gave the U.S. exclusive rights to build and control any canal in Nicaragua, and the rights to build a large military base along with it. 

However, the U.S. opted to back Panama’s secession from Colombia, and proceeded to build a canal there which was a sovereign territory that belonged to the U.S., until it was handed back to Panama in 1999.

Ortega addressed the historical legacy of the dispute, saying that at the time “The studies were done and then discussed only in Washington. They discussed, in the United States, whether the canal would pass through Panama or Nicaragua, without asking the Panamanian people nor the Nicaraguan people, they made the decision in Washington "

Attempts by the Sandinista government to build the canal in 2015 were opposed by the U.S. due to the involvement of China in the project, fearing that a major trade hub in a country outside their sphere of influence would be damaging to their interests. 

The project had however, been put on ice for the past year, as the country dealt with a major unrest and protests against a social security reform, a movement which was inflitrated by right-wing elements, backed by the U.S., that aimed at overthrowing the progressive Sandinista government. 

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