Written by PT – Costa Rica
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 00:04
The Nicaragua Canal project puts the world look on the Central American country, which borders Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south, with a population of approximately six million inhabitants, mostly located in the countryside and slumped in a huge poverty.
The Nicaragua Canal project
In February 2012, President Daniel Ortega in his speech in honor of General Augusto Cesar Sandino informed about the intentions of a Chinese business group to start trading with his government in order to build a canal larger than the Panamanian canal on Nicaraguan territory, and in June 13, 2013 the parliament passed a law that gives the construction and the exploration of a transoceanic canal in favor of the Chinese business group HKND.
So the HKND received the grant for the construction of the canal, with 278 kilometers long, a railway, an oil pipeline, two free trade zones, two deepwater harbors and an airport, receiving the permission of expropriating the land that they “deem necessary” to build their work. The concession is granted for 50 years and may be extended for another 50 years.
This project will be one of the most important infrastructure projects in Latin America at a cost of $ 50 billion; such a project will encompass a fringe of land of about 15 kilometers wide in the departments (states) of Rivas, Rio San Juan and the Autonomous Region South Atlantic (RAAS) where the inhabitants are in their majority originary people.
These works will displace at least 50,000 people, in their majority peasant families, farm workers, originary peoples which will be forcibly expropriated by HKND Company which has already offered them an amount equivalent to US$ 190 per hectare for their land, an amount far below its market value. This will prevent the population from being able to settle in other lands in order to continue producing food for their families. It must be added to this scenario that thousands of peasants do not have the ownership title of their lands duly updated and that in indigenous regions their lands are part of a State Reserve, without ownership title. So their forced eviction will not ensure a place where they can live after being stripped of their ancient lands.
Many of them are not willing to leave their lands where they lived throughout their lives, not to mention allowing that entire Judicial Districts disappear to make room for construction of the Canal. Another problem that this construction would cause is the irreparable environmental damage, not only for the contamination of the Great Lake of Nicaragua (the Cocibolca Lake) which is one of the largest fresh water reserves on the continent, but also by the contamination of water sources on half of the country, destroying the environmental balance of dozens of national parks, several swampland areas of international importance known as “Ramsar” lands, disappearance of indigenous territories and important archaeological sites. Furthermore, the possible and severe effects because of the sediment released in both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean that will harm the fishing across the Central American isthmus will affect thousands of artisanal fishermen in the region.
Despite the protests, Daniel Ortega’s government has not given a single reply, but reacted violently with its Armed Forces causing permanent violations of the civil and political rights of thousands of fighters.
The government of Daniel Ortega
Ortega governs the second poorest country in Latin America, with 42.7% of poverty and 7.6% of extreme poverty and 70% of jobs corresponds to the “casual sector”. This scenario causes the existence of a large emigration of Nicaraguans to Costa Rica and other countries, seeking to improve their living and labor conditions.
Ortega is part of the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN), a political organization that headed the revolution against Anastacio Somoza dictator’s regime in 1979, and later headed the Army that faced the Counterrevolutionaries in the 1980s.
However, after Somoza overthrow and the destruction of his Army, the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN) prevented the advance of the revolution when he secured private ownership of the means of production to the bourgeoisie and the expropriation of only “friends of the dictatorship” lands and companies, which in the end turned into a corrupt and undemocratic process. They disarmed the people and later reorganized the regular Armed Force, which brought back the terror and repression again among the population. Finally, they introduced a bourgeois democratic regime with regular elections and alternation of power with the most reactionary sectors of the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie, led by the Chamorro family.
In 2006, the FSLN won the elections with Daniel Ortega as a candidate for president, with the banner “Reconciliation and National Unity Government”. It was no longer the guerrilla front of the past, but an integrated party to the bourgeois order.
Several members of FSLN leadership have become bourgeois, acquiring huge fortunes as a product of the state corruption. The Ortega family, for example, is one of the wealthiest in the country, participating in the tourism and transport sectors as well as in the media. It controls four of the eight television channels in the country, which allows them to cover and control the public opinion.
In order to soothe the population and avoid social revolutions, the government introduced the so-called compensatory policies such as the “solidarity bonus” and the “the productive bonus”, which consist of loans to the poor peasants, that brought some social improvements, especially in health, in addition of a significant increase in the salaries of about 170,000 civil servants, while maintaining important levels of support among the impoverished masses of the country.
The Chinese investment, an alternative route to the US imperialism?
For the supporters of “progressivism”, of the “Socialism of the XXI Century”, the Chinese Canal project in Nicaragua will win the country’s sovereignty against the US imperialism. Part of that sovereignty would be ensured by the “progressive” bourgeoisie in the country (certainly the bourgeoisie emerged from within the FSNL), which would make investments using “national” capital to ensure its development. For this reason, they do not hesitate to crack down the protests of thousands of Nicaraguan peasants on behalf of a false anti-imperialist struggle, which collapses on the most elementary class analysis.
In fact, the construction of the Canal and its Chinese administration will favor first the US imperialism, whose companies will use it to transport their goods more quickly considering the sea traffic saturation that exists in the Panama Canal. In addition the new canal will allow the passage of deep draft ships, as the supertankers and the new generation of shipcontainer carrier that cannot currently transit through the Panama Canal and must go around the Cape Horn to the south of the continent.
The Canal and the imperialist plans for the region
Imperialism’s strategic plan for the Central American and Caribbean region is its conversion into a major commercial enclave and goods transportation. Therefore, the Canal of Nicaragua works cannot be seen separately from all other infrastructure projects that advance in the region, such as the expansion of the Panama Canal, the privatization and expansion of docks in Costa Rica, or the “corridor logistics” that unites the coasts of Honduras which will be ended in 2016. The same happens with the Binational Commission Guatemala-El Salvador that runs the works of the so-called “dry canal” which will link the ports of Acajutla in El Salvador, and Barrios and St. Thomas Castilla in Guatemala. To this it is added the expansion of the Caucedo port in the Dominican Republic in 2013, the unique port capable of receiving cargo ships “post-Panamax” throughout the region.
These works put under way in Central America are tied to others in the Caribbean, such as the construction of the Mariel Port in Cuba, the privatization and expansion of the containers terminal in Kingston (Jamaica), as well as the search for investments to build a new port in the region of Old Harbor, Jamaica.
Standing by the people fight
On October 2, 2014, militants of the Workers Party of Costa Rica participated in one of the demonstrations against the canal carried out in the community of El Tule, municipality of San Miguelito, Rio San Juan department. The demonstration was attended by about 3500 peasants of several nearby communities who demanded the government to halt the canal project.
At this mobilization the PT militants of Costa Rica rendered solidarity to the mobilizations of the IWL-FI Central American parties. The greeting was intensely celebrated, creating a great Center-Americanism feeling among the demonstrators who see the need to convert this fight into a fight of all Central American people.
For the IWL militants in Central America, the construction of this canal will not bring benefits to the Nicaraguan people. It is a work that benefits only the national and international business community, leaving in turn more misery, more than Nicaragua has been already suffering today. The forced expropriation of thousands of peasant families will bring more poverty, pain and emigration.
Ortega’s government advocates that the Canal will bring thousands of jobs and will help the national economy, but this is false. While it is true that in the years of the Canal construction there will be more jobs, this will happen under the conditions imposed by the Chinese bosses and will be short-lived. The Canal Construction consequences for the people will be far worse than these “advantages” sold by the businessmen and the Nicaraguan leaders.
Therefore, we put ourselves together with the workers, peasants and other organizations of the Nicaraguan popular movement who oppose the Canal, realizing that the conditions under which this mega project is developed are against the interests of the majority and will increase much more the Nicaraguan people subordination to the interests of the imperialism.
Likewise we repudiate the violent assaults committed by the government of the FSLN against the peasant leadership and the protesters, and we call upon all trade union organizations, human rights organizations, leftist parties and activists around the world to organize together with us a large and international solidarity campaign in favor of the peasants struggle and in favor of the Nicaraguan people against the aggression they have been suffering.