Sunday, September 21, 2008

Maybe this explains it...

I was wondering why Nicaragua of all places would choose to be the only country, besides Russia, to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Then I happened to stumble across this story on a Russian website (translated by computer from Spanish into English - isn't globalization grand?), which might explain things.

In short, the Nicaraguan government is saying that Russia is now interested in helping to finance a canal across Nicaragua to compete with the Panama Canal. The idea of a canal across Nicaragua linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans isn't a new one, it's been floating around for nearly 200 years. The plan would use the San Juan River and Lake Nicaragua to make much of the journey, with canals and locks bridging the remaining distance to the Pacific.

This route almost won out over the Panama Canal in the early 20th century, but lobbyists for Panama stirred up the fear that an eruption of Mt. Momotombo (actually 100 miles from the canal route) could close the Nicaragua Canal. Funding went to Panama, and the rest is history, at least until now.

A replacement for the Panama Canal is needed. The largest cargo and tanker ships can't use the Panama Canal; they must sail around Africa or South America to go between Asia and Europe or the east coast of North America, a detour that adds weeks to the journey. There is a plan underway to expand the Panama Canal so that these supersized ships can use it, but officials in Nicaragua are promoting their route as an alternate.

In addition to support for the canal, Russia is also reported to be ready to finish several hydroelectric projects started during the 1980s in Nicaragua.
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