October 5, 2006 [LINK / comment]

Will Nicaragua build a canal?

At the turn of the last century, a serious alernative route to a canal through Panama was along the San Juan river, which forms the southern border of Nicaragua. It would pass through Lake Nicaragua, and then traverse a mountain range before reaching the Pacific coast. That country's President Enrique Bolanños is urging Nicaraguan voters to approve a referendum to seek funding for building such a canal. It would have a wider channel to permit larger ships to pass from the Pacific to the Caribbean, no doubt taking much traffic away from Panama. It would cost $18 billion and take 12 years to finish -- which are only rough estimates, of course. See BBC. It's very ambitious, especially for a country with a shaky political-economic foundation, but it's the sort of prestige-oriented task that could promote national unity. It may be that such plans were the underlying reason for the border tensions between Nicaragua and Costa Rica late last year.