Community Dispatches

A brief history of non-US attempts to build a Nicaraguan Canal

Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, 19th century Wang Jing?

Two weeks ago, Chinese company HKND finally announced the route of their $50 billion canal for which they were awarded a generous 50 year concession from the Nicaraguan government last summer. Many, both here and abroad, are holding their breath. Given the government’s lack of transparency in its dealings as well as the sketchy background of Hong Kong entrepreneur Wang Jing, many observers have expressed their doubts as to whether or not the project will actually see the light of day. Moreover, history suggests that Nicaraguans should be cautious — as readers will likely remember, the United States came agonizingly close on several occasions to fulfilling their decades-long ambition to build a canal through Nicaragua before finally opting to build one in Panama instead. Wang Jing, however, is certainly not our first canal dreamer that doesn’t hail from the United States. Continue Reading →

The Nicaraguan Canal: digging in the dark

Dany and Wang and canal makes three

The Council of Private Enterprise, known as COSEP, organized a public meeting with HKND (Hong Kong Nicaraguan Development), the Chinese company that won a contract over a year ago to build an interoceanic canal through Nicaragua. The meeting was supposed to provide business organizations and chambers of commerce with specific information about the current status of this megaproject and the feasibility and environmental studies related to it. Unfortunately, the presentations HKND and Environmental Resource Management ERM were steeped in generalities and even when they agreed to answer some questions, vagueness and evasion seemed to be the order of the day. For example, when I asked the HKND representative to name any potential international investors in the canal and explain why, despite the fact that in October last year, Wang Jing said he would present the investors to the public in December; no information of the sort had been released so far. The answers he did provide bordered on the bizarre. Continue Reading →

The Last Supper


Had I not recently spent a year in Nicaragua, I probably wouldn’t have had the expectation that the family would offer my friend and I to join them, or at least set us aside small plates to eat at the counter. I was still conditioned by my experience with the Nicaraguans, a mostly poor people who are also the most giving I have encountered. Continue Reading →

The other side of Granada: A tribute to Nicaraguan workers


Editor’s note: the following article is the second in a new series on one expat’s
adventures living and working on Mombacho Volcano. For my second part of the tale about living and working on Mombacho, I am tempted to talk about the saga of how Mombacho Lodge got built and all we have to offer guests now that we are up and running. But, I think this needs to be about what (after multi-night reservations) is likely the most important part of the Lodge and what is the most satisfying aspect of this whole thing: my employees. Without them, I would be totally crazy, or lost to get stuff done…or both (as it is, there are those who say that I am half way there anyway lost and or crazy or both). As with any business, employees are the key to success. Continue Reading →

Citizen Journalism: holding government accountable


Nicaragua’s media is known for actively debating the various pros and cons of Nicaragua’s national political, social and economic state of affairs. But when you dig down to the local level, there is a noticeable lack of the cadre of citizen journalism that is vital to reporting on local government issues. This kind of journalism is essential—because so many of the public services that people depend upon are provided by their municipal governments. Regardless of politics, mayors and their offices have a huge impact on the day-to-day living of all of their residents. An informed media is paramount to ensuring that leaders can be held accountable for their failures, while their successes can be celebrated to provide examples for others. Continue Reading →

Does death become you as an expat?


     “None of us are getting out of here alive.” ~R. Alan Woods

It never ceases to amaze me. In preparation for retirement abroad, we organize our finances, research our retirement options, join expat forums, read expat blogs, and ask numerous questions about health care, cost of living, crime rate, among other things. Yet little forethought is ever given to what happens when expats die abroad. Continue Reading →

US expats get reprieve from IRS (new rules remove penalties)


Finally the IRS has done more than just listen – they acted. Last week the IRS announced major changes to the Streamlined Filing Procedure. The Streamlined Procedure was introduced to help low-risk delinquent taxpayers living overseas to become compliant with their US tax obligation. The program has now been expanded to allow even more US expats to get caught up on their US tax return filing with no penalties. No penalties? Continue Reading →