Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | February 17, 2011

China Building a Transcontinental Railway in Colombia

The Chinese government will help Colombia build a 220-kilometer transcontinental railway, which will link Colombia’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The estimated $7.6 billion project will be operated by the China Railway Group, and it will serve as an alternative to the Panama Canal, which serves roughly five percent of world trade, with 13,000 to 14,000 ships passing through it every year.

China is Colombia’s second largest trading partner, after the U.S. The Colombian ambassador in Washington, Gabriel Silva, has expressed the need for Colombia to stop believing in the possibility of a free trade agreement with the U.S., and to look elsewhere—like China—for alternate trading partners.

The project would “crown China’s economic push into Latin America,” according to the Guardian newspaper. But will it be cheaper and faster than the Panama Canal?

The irony of history: Lately, I’ve been reading biographies and memoirs of former members of Colombia’s M-19 movement, and many credit their initial take on Communism as a strain of Maoism. Back then, The Selected Writings of Mao Tse-Tung, was mandatory reading if you took yourself to be a serious revolutionary. And so it makes me giggle that forty years later, China—whom, compañero! was the change Colombia struggled for, via arms and guerrilla training—is funding a sister to the Panama Canal. It was precisely the likes of the Panama Canal—its imperialism, compañero! —which made M-19’s angry enough to kill and kidnap. In the name of patriotism and nationalism, compañero!

Further reading:

Colombia Looking to Build a “Dry Panama” Link: A Good Idea?

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