Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | January 3, 2013

Colombia’s lost waters will be part of Nicaragua’s “Panama Canal” — with China’s aid.

China is furthering its ties with Latin America.

First, China agreed to help Colombia build a transcontinental railway to link Colombia’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and serve as an alternative to the Panama Canal. It is an estimated $7.6 billion project and will be operated by the China Railway Group.

Now, China has agreed to help Nicaragua build a $30 billion canal. Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega hopes it will rival the Panama Canal. He also seeks funds from Brazil, Russia and Venezuela for its construction.

The ships using Nicaragua’s new waterway will navigate waters which had been in dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia. After 12 years, the World Court on borders ruled these waters, which hold much oil and gas deposits beneath them, belonged to Nicaragua.

But critics say Nicaragua is incapable of patrolling its waters and airspace, and point as evidence the drug trafficking gangs that benefit from this weakness.


  1. Wonderful post! We are linking to this particularly great post on our site.
    Keep up the great writing.

  2. Hi, Paula.

    From what you have written and the wording you have used, it almost can be inferred that China always knew whazt the ruling would be, even before it was given and made public. That opens the question of whether the Colombian government also knew the answer beforehand, and merely played the public down focusing the attention on San Andrés rather than on the cayes. If that is the case, could that explain the absence of increased military presence in the archipelago since the ICJ´s ruling?

    • Hi Daniel:

      I did not mean anything more by my choice of words. I think China would try to negotiate with whomever if it suits their interests. It took 12 years for the ICJ ruling, and China was likely anxious for a decision so when there was a final ruling, they jumped to make the deal with Nicaragua. (Remember it’s Nicaragua who holds the land where they plan to build the waterway.)

      If the Colombian government had known the likely ruling beforehand, I would hope that they would have concentrated on finding a stronger legal team, rather than on downplaying the focus to center on San Andres.

      Curious: Where did you read that there has been a decrease in military presence in the archipelago?

      I was aware of the opposite — that the american Drug Enforcement Administration has begun helping Nicaragua patrol the waters. See:

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


      • Hello, Paula.

        I offer my apologies if in any way I have offended you. I meant only that the Chinese government jumped in very quickly to strike a deal with either the Colombian or the Nicaraguan government. It is the speed and the solidity of the deal that surprises me, though it should not surprise me at all considering the way that the Chinese think.

        About the military presence, I clearly did not express myself well. What I wanted to say is that Colombia has not increased its military presence in the archipelago, though it also must be said that it has not decreased. True, the DEA is helping out, but Colombia has not increased its foothold. It has held military ceremonies recognizing the labor of the troops that patrol San Andres, as a clear sign of sovereignity, as can be seen here:

        Notwithstanding this, news outlets report that Colombia has but maintained its already existing presence, as can be seen here:

        Now, the reason why I find this relevant is that President Santos’ style has always been far more diplomacy than force based, as opposed to that of former President Uribe. It seems, then, good politics for Santos to leave the Navy presence as it is, for the time being. But displaying a strong military character in the face of the FARC peace talks also seems good politics, not to mention consistent with how cautiously he and his government decided to undertake said talks.

        I really like your blog. Thanks for having it out there.

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