By Carlos Miguélez Monroy
“The Panama Canal has been saturated for several years. One of the reasons why the oil trade between Venezuela and China has not grown faster is because Venezuelans have no Pacific coastline. With a channel through which energy can be transported, the cost of moving raw materials that are extracted from Latin America to China will go down a lot ”, explains León Manríquez.
50,000 workers will be needed to complete the canal. In addition to this direct creation of jobs, those who support the project argue that thousands more could be generated by the construction of roads, hotels, restaurants, shops and sports complexes. These movements in the economy tend to bring about modernization in transportation and telecommunications, which could increase commercial exchanges to and from Nicaragua and the rest of Central America.
China will have a new alternative on its trade route to Europe, which currently passes through Central Asia, the Caucasus and Russia. Nicaragua can become the first stop on a route that can then take different directions: towards Colombia, Venezuela, the Brazilian coast, Uruguay and Argentina, or towards the west coast of Africa. And then Europe, with Portugal and Spain as possible entry points.
But opponents of the canal's construction warn against possible bubbles in the construction and against the loss of economic and political sovereignty before an actor like China, with a questioned record on human rights. "Same dogs with different collars," they say in reference to the emergence of a new "master" after decades of US influence. In Nicaragua, one of the bloodiest episodes of the Cold War was fought, causing an automatic distrust of new foreign interference.
The Chinese growth model has not presented variations with respect to that of the industrialized countries in recent decades. This model is attributed not only the "benefits" of modernization, but also the pollution of seas and rivers, climate change, the depredation of forests and jungles, the extinction of species and serious human rights violations "in the name of progress".
They warn that the construction of the canal can lead to expropriations and expulsions of local communities. On the other hand, environmentalists fear the threat that the project poses to Lake Cocibolca, the main source of fresh water in Central America, and to its ecosystem. Furthermore, wealth creation does not guarantee ending poverty or violence in the region when one of the main problems lies in the distribution of wealth.
Training plays a fundamental role for the success of the project by increasing the demand for local professionals for the construction and operation of the canal, as well as for the implementation of a new economic and social reality in the country. The arrival of trained professionals from other countries could catapult education itself in the Central American country. This would be possible if the government conceived this project beyond a simple opportunity to enrich itself and not as an opportunity to invest in education, from the base to specialized higher education. After a few years, a real political, economic and, above all, social transformation could be achieved, with education as the engine. Nicaragua and the rest of the world are at stake with the construction of this canal.
Center for Solidarity Collaborations