by Roman Yavich, Co-Founder, Comunidad Connect

A canal is a small body of water that connects two larger bodies. Ironically it also divides. The mere idea of a canal in Nicaragua has revived the dormant rivalry between the liberals and conservatives in this country 25 years removed from a bloody civil war. The canal passing across the middle of Nicaragua would sever the country in two geographically, north and south, and economically, the haves and the have nots. The haves being those who have access to the canal and the global trade it represents.

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Map of proposed canal. Image from HKND Group, the China-based company planning to build the canal

Opinions about the impact of this largest construction project in human history  range from, “It’s good for economic development and will help protect the forests from deforestation due to ranching and logging,” to, “my family fought for this land, they are buried here, there is no way I would ever leave.” Some 120,000 people may be affected by the construction, flooding of artificial lakes, and expropriation of land. But another 4 million or so live in dire poverty, welcoming any change as a potential improvement. The fate of the largest freshwater body in Latin America, Lake Nicaragua, may well be determined by which side wins.

Anti-Canal Protests in Managua. Image from EuroNews.

Anti-Canal Protests in Managua. Image from EuroNews.

Politically, Nicaragua is deeply divided between the zealous Sandinistas and the disenchanted Sandinistas (in addition to those who opposed the revolution of the 80s from the start). If the canal project goes through, Nicaragua will be more divided than ever, even as it tethers to the global economy and literally connects the Atlantic to the Pacific. The next few months and years may prove to be some of the most important in Nicaragua’s recent past, and, perhaps, in its foreseeable future.

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