Daniel Ortega is one of the animating forces behind the Nicaragua Canal. I always doubted that he believed the Canal would be built, but I did think that he expected his Chinese partners to go ahead with the subprojects.
Well, Ortega just fired a shot across HKND’s bow. Exactly one week ago, President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan visited Managua. The two presidents of course met. And now it has leaked that President Ortega asked President Ma for Taiwanese official support in building a $500 million deepwater port at Monkey Point, Nicaragua, on the Caribbean coast.
Monkey Point is less than four miles from the proposed end of the Canal Rojo. In the stunned words of an opposition legislator, Edmundo Jarquín, “What person, with a minimum of common sense, thinks it is possible to build two deepwater ports less than six kilometers apart?”
Well, nobody. I have only two points. First, the Monkey Point project has been percolating for a while. A Brazilian company rejected it three years ago. But the Nicaraguan government did not: last year, it put out for tenders on a design study for a highway to Monkey Point. Ortega was not talking off the top of this head; Hugo Chávez, he is not.
Second, the whole thing is a message aimed at HKND: get serious about building something, or lose your concessions, constitutional amendment notwithstanding. But this message is not new. I have my doubts about whether the Gran Canal will ever be built. The Ma-Ortega meeting is probably not a sign that Daniel Ortega shares them. Although he should.