Ortega: Nicaragua Canal will deliver country to ‘promised land’

Sixth installment in a series on Nicaragua’s canal plans

With a pinch of humor and a pound of populism, President Daniel Ortega, his wife Rosario Murillo, and enigmatic Chinese businessman Wang Jing last night sealed their politica pact giving Wang’s upstart company HKND Group exclusive rights to design, build and manage a $40 billion canal megaproject for the next 50 years.

The generous concession (Law 840), which was rammed through National Assembly last week by the Sandinista supermajority and is already being challenged as unconstitutional by the country’s leading business chamber, was signed into law Friday night amid grandiose promises that the private canal project would eradicate poverty in Nicaragua and bring happiness to the world.

“This is a historic day for Nicaragua..a day of fulfilling prophecies and realizing dreams,” said first lady Rosario Murillo, during Friday night’s nationally televised political ceremony. Murillo called it a “day of miracles” and said the canal project represents a “prophecy of prosperity for Nicaraguan families.”

“This is a project that will combat poverty, extreme poverty, and bring wellbeing, prosperity and happiness to the Nicaraguan people,” said President Ortega.

The President said the canal megaproject, which for the next half-century will be run as Wang’s privately owned enterprise, is fulfilling the dreams of Nicaraguan National Heroes Augusto C. Sandino and Rubén Darío. It will also deliver the Nicaraguan people to the promised land, Ortega mused.

“For the people, for the people who have sacrificed so much, who have suffered so much pain; our people who have spent so much time wandering in the desert in search of the Promised Land. The day has arrived. The hour has arrived for us to reach the Promised Land,” Ortega said.

Nicaraguans also got their first chance to hear from the unknown Chinese businessman who will lead them out of the proverbial desert. Wang was introduced during last night’s nationally televised ceremony with a rare attempt at humor by President Ortega. Poking fun at the fact that the Chinese businessman is a stranger to Nicaraguans, Ortega introduced Wang with the words: “Here is the phantom, in the flesh and blood.” Wang, who doesn’t understand or speak Spanish, seemed to miss the joke altogether.

Wang then addressed the crowed seriously and loudly through a Chinese interpreter who couldn’t pronounce the word Nicaragua. He introduced his much-vaunted international team: chief engineer Bill Wild; environmental consultant David MacArthur, of the international firm Environmental Resources Management (ERM); consultant Stefan Matzinger of McKinsey Consultant Firm; and Li Chuan of the Mclarty legal firm in Shanghai.

Wang then made his case for why Nicaragua and the world need another inter-oceanic canal. He promised to operate his private canal in a way that that is transparent and respectful of “the principles of sovereignty,” while protecting the environment and stimulating the economy.

“The Nicaraguan Canal will always belong to the people of Nicaragua,” Wang said, even though the terms of his concession says he’ll be the majority owner of the canal until the gradual transfer of ownership to Nicaragua reaches 51% in the 50th year of his contract. (In other words, Wang will most likely be the majority owner of Nicaraguan Canal for the rest of his life.)

Wang also displayed a penchant for extravagant claims. “We will change the world; we are going to bring more happiness, freedom and joy to the planet,” Wang said emotionlessly.

Wang called on all Nicaraguans to “join hands” to help the country realize its centuries’ old dream “quickly.”

While COSEP prepares to challenge the constitutionality of the canal concession before the Supreme Court, arguing the law it violates private property rights, HKND Group has started its public-relations outreach. The company, whose team of international consultants is well respected, plans to get a quick jump on the feasibility and environmental-impact studies, which are expected to take up to two years to complete.

Once that’s done, HKND will take the project to market to see if they can cobble together $40 billion from private investors. Until then, Wang, who reportedly has already sunk tens of millions of dollars into the project, is assuming all the project costs from his own pocket, according to company spokesman Ronald MacLean-Abaroa.


Next: Part XII: HKND tells The Nicaragua Dispatch in an exclusive interview that the canal project is 100% private and does not involve the Chinese government or “any other government.”



  • Randy Higgins

    Good-bye, Lake Nicaragua. We know you have survived thousands of years with what nature has thrown at you, but you may not survive the canal. We have loved you and always will…

  • car

    friggin pathetic! what from under what rock did these people crawl out? does ANYONE truly believe this load of sh*t?

  • Mike

    The gravy train has pulled into the station on this one already, I think. Money’s going to be made like mad, especially if North Korean labor battalions are imported for the work and paid in fermented cabbage The beauty of it is they don’t actually have to dig a canal to get rich, and actually trying will be much tougher than just seeming to. Graham Greene and O. Henry are smacking their foreheads for missing this boat, wherever they are.

  • Martin Nelson

    Does anyone know where the Pacific terminus of the canal will be? Logically it would seem to be in San Juan Del Sur. I guess if I were an investor in resorts, hotels, a new home, etc. I would now wonder if locating in or near Rivas would be a smart idea. The government will have to clear out a lot of privately held land to pull this off.

  • car

    La Prensa: “La justicia penal, laboral, administrativa o económica de Nicaragua no podrá aplicarse a la empresa concesionaria del Gran Canal Interoceánico, HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment (HKC), pues el país ha renunciado a su inmunidad soberana, según se desprende de la Ley Especial para el Desarrollo de Infraestructura y Transporte Nicaragüense atingente al Canal, Zonas de Libre Comercio e Infraestructuras Asociadas.”

    slave labor, no way to control it, no way out. sad, but part of me wants this to fail in every manner so that the sandinista lovers in this country finally learn their lesson. too bad it will end up costing the taxpayers in the end. nica is already mortgaged to its eyeballs to venezuela. now they’ve whored out the country to the chinese…

  • Kelvin

    Brito to the lake is the route that is consistently shown. The same route as the planned Brito Hydro Project. They were going to flood a huge area of the Rio Brito flood plain for the hydro lake. See last two pages of this report.


  • pacha

    Li Chuan is with Kirkland & Ellis law firm. Mclarty is involved they were mentioned, but Li is not their man, they did not speak at the event.

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