For centuries, tycoons and adventurers alike have dreamed of building a canal through Nicaragua between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and riding a boom in international trade to new riches. Up until now, however, all comers were forced to admit defeat when faced with the sheer challenge of building a man-made river through dense, hilly jungle.
Now, the old dream is attracting a new hopeful, and this time from the other side of the world.
The Chinese company, HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd., is working with the Nicaraguan government on a massive canal project experts say could take 11 years to finish, cost $40 billion and require digging about 130 miles (200 kilometers) of waterway.
Canal proponents say the waterway could create 40,000 construction jobs and essentially double the per-capita gross domestic product of Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in Latin America. The government plans to grant the Chinese company a concession for 100 years.
That's sparked hopes of an economic gold rush in Nicaragua, and President Daniel Ortega has pushed approval of the canal through the country's congress. Ortega presented the canal proposal Tuesday and hopes to submit it to at least an initial vote on Monday, with final approval planned by next Thursday.