The Panama Canal could soon have a rival to the northwest. Nicaragua is itching to get started on a new route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, one that would measure 130 miles and take as long as 11 years and $40 billion to dig. And just as the US was behind the Panama Canal, it's a Chinese firm that's leading the way on the project, which could bring 40,000 new construction jobs and double Nicaragua's GDP. The firm is poised to get a century-long concession for the effort. "This is a question of a project that is very important for the country, and that is why it is being given urgent priority," says a lawmaker.
President Daniel Ortega is hoping to get approval for the project as soon as next Thursday. But hurdles remain: The opposition party has cited concerns about the Chinese company, HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co., whose director is listed as having the same job at 12 different current or former companies, the AP notes. Without more information, "we can assume this is a swindle," says the party in a statement. Some also wonder how effective the canal will be, given its proximity to Panama's—within a few hundred miles. But the project's success would mark the realization of centuries of consideration; politics and thick jungle have stymied previous efforts. (Read more Nicaragua stories.)