Pastora: Costa Rica loses big with new canal route

Former guerilla leader says Ticos celebrating Nicaragua’s decision to build the inter-oceanic canal further north are ‘ignorant’ because the move will mean big losses for Costa Rica

Outspoken former guerrilla hero Edén “Comandante Cero” Pastora says Costa Ricans who are celebrating Nicaragua’s decision to build its inter-oceanic canal further north of the San Juan River are “ignorant” because their country only stands to lose by pushing shipping traffic away from its border.

“Costa Rica loses with this move—they are going to miss out on tourism, economic development and port infrastructure,” Pastora told The Nicaragua Dispatch in an interview this afternoon. “If Costa Ricans are happy because the canal is going to be built further north of the border, it’s because their xenophobia is bigger than Irazú Volcano.”

The six proposed canal routes (No. 6 is out)

Pastora said the original plan of widening the Río San Juan into the hemisphere’s second inter-oceanic canal would have brought massive bi-national development to the border region between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The Río San Juan route—on of six proposed alternatives for the Nicaraguan Canal—would have converted part of Costa Rica’s Sarapiquí River into a lake, finally giving Costa Rica “its own great lake,” Pastora said, alluding to Costa Rica’s perceived historical aspirations to appropriate Nicaragua’s Lake Cocibolca.

“But now they lose all that. So if any Costa Ricans are happy about the decision, it’s because they are ignorant,” Pastora said.

Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry this week expressed its approval with Nicaragua’s decision to not pursue plans to use the Río San Juan as the proposed route for the inter-oceanic canal. On May 13, Nicaragua’s Foreign Ministry wrote a diplomatic missive to its Costa Rican counterpart explaining that based on preliminary studies conducted by the Chinese company HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd, the Sandinista government has decided to forgo plans to build the canal along their border river, and instead pursue an unspecified alternative route “in the north of the South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS).”

View of the 2-kilometer start to the original Nicaraguan Canal, built by U.S.-industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt in the 19th century. To date, this is the closest Nicaragua has gotten to fulfilling its inter-oceanic canal dreams (photo/ Tim Rogers)

Sandinista authorities, who have been developing the early phases of Nicaragua’s canal plans with the same secrecy that characterizes all their business dealings, promised to inform Costa Rica about the exact canal route “when the time comes.”

Pastora, meanwhile, thinks Nicaragua’s time finally has come after centuries of ventose and delusional talk about building a canal, which is now estimated to cost $35 billion—or three times more than Nicaragua’s Gross Domestic Product. The scope of the project may seem unlikely in a country like Nicaragua, but Pastora is confident the world would be a better place with second canal across Central America.

“It sounds like a lot of money for a small country like ours, but for the rest of the world—China, Japan, Russia, the U.S., Korea, and Europe—$30 billion is peanuts,” said the former guerilla leader, who has been spearheading the Sandinista government’s river dredging efforts along the border with Costa Rica.

“The stars are finally aligning for us to build the canal,” Pastora said. “And as sure as the sun shines, it will happen.”


  • car

    interesting. leaving aside the absolute ecological disaster this project is going to have on nicaragua, e.g., destruction of the entire indigenous animal population of lake cocibolca, the economics of it are kind of funky.

    we all know that mega-projects are NEVER completed at the estimated cost. add on 20% and then, maybe! so 35 billion + 20%. then factor in that the chinese, who are world renowned for their outstandingly shitty construction, will likely screw something up that will end up costing nicas huge a long time down the road.

    now some “real” numbers according to the panama canal authority, net revenues are around $800 million per year. this is so, because although canal traffic is actually down, they raised the prices. if an when nicaragua completes its canal, you can be sure it will not take away all of panama’s traffic and a price war will ensue drastically reducing profits. assume for a moment that the two countries split the traffic. logic dictates that each would net $400 million annually. however, the price war will certainly reduce the net, maybe by as much as 50% to each country.

    assuming this scenario, nicaragua may net $200 million annually (leaving aside the absolutely certain to be corruption). given the projected cost plus the 20% overrun AND excluding interest, it will take nicaragua roughly 195 years to break even.

    i’d say this is a fantastic idea!

    • Brewster

      Well you are a genuine Idiot, first of all China is putting up all the cash, and from what I have seen in the past several years they have their stuff together.There is little risk to Nicaragua, but a tremendous amount to gain, If a price war for shipping was to break-out the consumer would benefit, and you think that would be a bad thing, or did you even Think?

  • AWD

    The Canal is never going to happen under Ortega’s regime. He does not attract the trust and confidence of the investors needed for this kind of project.

  • TEO

    To attract this kind of investment first there would have to be a rule of law that applies to the police and evenly to both foreign and domestic investors. My personal experiences and the recent experiences of the businessmen in Esteli show that in this country the police can shut your business down without evidence or even reasonable suspicion. Apparently without consulting the President. 30 billion is a dream.

    • paul

      I’d be rather worried if the police were to consult the president before carrying out an operation. Nicaragua isn’t the US in the 80s and 90s where the cops had to ask the presidents if they were allowed to arrest his crack-dealing pals (he said no).
      Some types of investment are facilitated somewhat by the “rule of law”; interestingly, large scale capital investment in infrastructure is not!!

  • Tony

    I think Ticos being intelligent and sober people, and in addition being able to observe and measure abilities, national psyche, modus operandi of Nicas, understand that canal WILL NEVER BE BUILT anyway. Just take this quote for ex.:

    “It sounds like a lot of money for a small country like ours, but for the rest of the world—China, Japan, Russia, the U.S., Korea, and Europe—$35 billion [to build a canal in Nicaragua ($12 billion previous estimate)] is peanuts”

    hmmmmm……and? so should these countries waste $ 35 bil. on you with a hope of breaking even in 200 years?

    regrettably same Nica naionall greedy / opportunistic beggar mentality “give me!” “give me!” “give me!” seem to apply as in

    “It sounds like a lot of money for a poor people like us, but for the rest of the world—Chinese, Japanese, Russian, the U.S., Korean, and European—$10 [to buy a substandard rat burger in Nicaragua ($.99 cents value in McDonalds)] is peanuts”

    The ONLY IMPORT Nicaragua is looking for to these countries is FREE or at least discounted $$$. Money for NOTHING.

  • Ashley

    Nicaragua = the New World China, not a bad relationship for two Communist countries. That canal is going to have some faulty construction. I’d rather go through the Panama canal. Better construction and better government.

    • ACS

      Chinese infrastructure projects have come out cheaper and better built than what the US has been doing for the past quarter century, so if anything it’ll be better run than the ideological idiots are capable of recognizing.