President Daniel Ortega: We have a commitment to make the Interoceanic Canal a Reality in Nicaragua

President Daniel Ortega: We have a commitment to make the Interoceanic Canal a Reality in Nicaragua

Published in El 19 Digital Aug 13, 2019

[see original Spanish at ]

Comandante Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua, stated that he has the historical commitment with the people of Nicaragua to make the Great Interoceanic Canal of Nicaragua a reality, in declarations offered during the event of the 39th anniversary of the founding of the Naval Force.

He highlighted that this project has not been abandoned, and that it would provide more development to the country and improve the living conditions of the people.

“We have not abandoned it, on the contrary historically we have the commitment to the Nicaraguan people to make the canal a reality for Nicaragua,” stated comandante Daniel Ortega.

Likewise he stated that work has been done and that it is in a new phase of once again preparing the environmental studies that had already been presented, but that had to have adjustments made.

“We are not talking about a work that is going to come in to affect, to do damage, rather it comes in to strengthen global commerce, and give Nicaragua a source of resources that would allow Nicaragua to provide better development, better growth and therefore improve the economic conditions of all Nicaraguan families. This is what I wanted to recall, because all of a sudden then, because we have not spoken much about the canal in these times, recall that our commitment is to continue working for the construction of the Canal through Nicaragua”, certified the Nicaraguan leader.

This was stated by comandante Daniel after highlighting that the idea of the Interoceanic Canal was the product of historical and current studies that endorsed the national and world economic necessity of having a new maritime path that would shorten the distance between the continents.

On addressing the issue of the Great Canal, the Nicaraguan leader indicated that the Great Canal Project is “a project that has the backing of the immense majority of Nicaraguans.”

A history marked by ambition

At that moment he showed documents that mentioned that the President of the United States at that time, Stephen Grover Cleveland, addressed the US Congress to submit the studies done by engineers of the Navy of that nation about the viability of this construction work.

They did it along the route that at that time was considered the natural route for the canal, which was entering through the Rio San Juan, crossing through the lake and making a 14 kilometer cut through the isthmus of Rivas to arrive at Brito (…), they did the study. Did they ask the permission of the people of Nicaragua? No, simply the decision was that the United States needed a canal and they had set their eye on Panama and Nicaragua, because they were the points that showed the best conditions to be able to build the canal, and which had already in fact functioned as a canal during the gold rush in the United States, where thousands of families from the east coast traveled to the west coast crossing US territory running thousands of risks, dangers, there was still indigenous resistance, there were bandits, robbers, deserts. So they started very clever US enterprises, an enterprise of Cornelius Vanderbilt was begun, he said here is the opportunity, really with a great vision as a businessman he organized the transit route through Nicaragua, and the boats with passengers left from New York heading toward the small port that existed in the Rio San Juan”, recalled comandante Daniel.

Indicating that on arriving in San Juan de Nicaragua they would travel the Rio San Juan, and then in Brito were awaited by other ships to take them to California.

Nicaragua a strategic point

“Thousands of North Americans crossed through Nicaragua and another route was also opened through Panama, more to the south. The Nicaragua route was more to the north, closer, but the fact is that already before, since the Spanish arrived to take over these lands and impose their cultures and exploit the original population, the indigenous, already before a fight had begun with the British. Because the British wanted to take over Nicaragua and why? If here there were not large amounts of gold, which is what the colonizers most looked for at that time, nor silver? Because the British as well as the Spanish used to say very clearly in those years: they would say that the nation that dominates this route through Nicaragua is going to dominate all of Latin America, they saw it as a point for global expansion throughout the region. At that time, the United States still did not have all the potential to influence as later it did, and the clash was between the Spanish and the British”, laid out the president.

He highlighted the fact that at that time the two superpowers fought one another over our territory, which did not belong to them.

“Who had given them Nicaragua? Ah, but they were fighting over Nicaragua and Nicaraguans subjected to a war between empires. Later the United States came in and William Walker came in the period of the transit route, but Walked came with other ideas, he was interested in taking over Central America to seize Mexico, and then install again the power of the racists, the [white] supremacists in the United States. Walker belonged to the forces from the United States who had been defeated, who did not admit the defeat, and those who brought Walker here thought that they were bringing in a mercenary, and they did not realize that they were bringing in a racist ideologue, [white] supremacist and suddenly he named himself president of Nicaragua and began to shoot those who had brought him, and the battle against Walker got started”, he recalled.

Interoceanic Canal was not a crazy idea

On returning to the topic of the document presented by Cleveland, he highlighted the fact that the studies confirmed that building an interoceanic canal through Nicaragua was not any crazy idea, and that was confirmed by the confrontation between Spain and England over wanting to dominate the route to make themselves owners of the path “and then the United States now as a state with their troops intervening in Nicaragua, occupying Nicaragua, imposing a treaty on Nicaragua so that Nicaragua could not make any concession with another country. It was the time in which the United States would say, as they like to repeat today, ‘America for the United States´ Why? Because they did not want the competition from Europe. So, it was a time in which the United States was entering, they reached agreements with the British, and finally, we are talking about the year 1889 in the month of February when president Grover Cleveland turns over the studies [on the canal] to Congress.”

We have not abandoned the canal

He showed the maps of the studies done by the US navy engineers over several years and which were presented to Congress, who discussed the issue, saying that the canal would be built through Panama.

“This is chock-full , the studies are complete, a complete study and were the Nicaraguan people consulted perhaps? Was it done perhaps out of a minimal level of respect, was an agreement done to do this and the people taken into account? No. Simply the studies were done, and then where the canal would pass through were discussed then in Washington, there in the United States, whether through Panama or through Nicaragua, without asking the Panamanian people, and without asking the Nicaraguan people, they making the decision there in Washington”, he said.

At this point he highlighted that Nicaragua, the Sandinista Government, has not abandoned this project.

He recalled that in an encounter of presidents of Central America with the then president Barack Obama in Costa Rica, he talked informally about the topic.

“We were standing talking, before sitting down to start the formal meeting. The issue of the canal was already there, the agreement of Nicaragua, the canal authority had already been constituted. So the Costa Rican authorities with their typical usual practice of always picking fights with Nicaragua, were there raving against the canal, they were yelling every day, we were not responding. Every day they were yelling, insulting us, but we had nothing to gain to be yelling back, simply it has to be done- we were saying. And the president of Costa Rica was there, president Obama, (…) president Martinelli was there, the Central American presidents were there, and let´s say that I was interested in seeing how they would react to mentioning the issue of the Canal, and I said to president Obama: `President, the studies are already beginning for the construction of a Canal through Nicaragua´. He was listening. `…we are working on them with a Chinese company, and the Chinese company is interested in the entire world participating in this construction project, particularly US companies, European companies, Russian companies, in other words, that the international community participate. Why? Because the cost of the construction project is very high and logically the company needs to organize a large financial fund to be able to carry out this construction work”`, he said.

In this encounter Obama was listening, and even though he did not comment, president Daniel Ortega said to the then president of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, that Costa Rica should not be concerned because the Canal would not be built through the route of the Rio San Juan, for being a zone rich in forests and wetlands and the environment must be protected and not damaged.

So work is being done- he said – so that the canal route might be toward the north far from the border with Costa Rica, therefore you have no reason to be concerned, so president Chinchilla did not say anything, she made no comment, I simply explained that the canal was not going to pass through the Rio San Juan which was the big concern that they expressed, when I was finishing, Obama says to president Martinelli who is where Panama canal is, `We support the canal through Nicaragua. We are not concerned, we do not see it as competition that is going to hurt us, we believe rather that is something beneficial´; in other words, it is an attitude that is rational because really the canal through Panama is the only route that we have currently for crossing, and in spite of the fact that the canal through Panama was enlarged, there are always lines [waiting] to be able to pass through it, because every day the maritime traffic gets larger, so it provides a place for a canal to be opened up through Nicaragua, and there would be two paths, if one highway is congested, well, it is expanded, and if expanded it still continues congested, the need to build another highway is normal, and in this case it is a matter of opening the canal through Nicaragua which is not our idea. Because all of a sudden this issue of a canal through Nicaragua is presented as if it were our idea, that occurred to us because we are Sandinistas, because we are revolutionaries it occurred to us that a canal needs to be built through Nicaragua, when since the arrival of the superpowers in America the fight began over the canal through Nicaragua”, he concluded.


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