Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Latin America must seize autonomy to curb influence of Chinese business

China’s economic boom has taken 300 million Chinese citizens out of poverty. Companies from all over the world are going to China to do business, and Chinese companies are growing at an incredible rate. These companies are not only interested in attracting foreign capital, but they are also interested in going abroad to create new branches and start new projects in all regions of the world. However, these new projects, loans and companies that present themselves as solutions to economic problems hide environmental problems, political machines and corruption.

The Chinese government has provided funding for different projects with the purpose of improving diplomatic relations with Latin American countries. For example, in Costa Rica, the Chinese government financed the construction of the new Estadio Nacional after Costa Rican president Oscar Arias signed agreements during a visit to China. The stadium cost 100 million dollars and was built by a Chinese company. China has also lent money to multiple governments in the region. According to the BBC, China’s loans to Latin America rose 22 billion dollars in 2014. In my opinion, the purpose of these loans is to gain political power and open the doors to Chinese business in the region.

Chinese companies are known for bribing local and national governments in developing countries in order to get projects approved and leave them unregulated. The problem here is that Chinese companies love giving bribes and Latin American officials love money. The results have been disastrous. In Argentina, Chinese boats fish illegally each year, capturing tons of fish and threatening species. Although the government of Argentina has captured some of these fishing boats, Argentine journalists say that it is difficult to apprehend the Chinese boats because of their technology and because they bribe the Argentine Coastguard.

In Mexico there have been similar problems. The Chinese companies have tried to start projects like building resorts in national parks such as Cabo Pulmo, one of the biggest coral reefs in the Pacific Coast. Although construction of the resort was halted in 2012, the Chinese companies keep trying to convince officials to finish the project. According to environmentalists, this project would destroy more than 9,000 acres of land, and it poses a threat to the reef of Cabo Pulmo because of pollution created by thousands of tourists.

The latest project in Latin America that is threatening a whole ecosystem and a country’s way of life is the Nicaragua Canal, which was started by Chinese companies in December of 2014. This project would create a canal that would pass through Lake Nicaragua and connect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The construction of the canal was negotiated by the son of the president of Nicaragua and the Chinese consortium HKND. This consortium will manage the canal for 50 years. Environmentalist say that the canal could cause a mass extinction in the largest lake in Central America.

Chinese companies are not worried about the environment, which is why China is  undergoing one of the worse environmental crises on Earth right now. These companies will do the same in China and Latin America if the governments allow them. It is necessary to create an international commission or organization that studies their projects and advises countries about the dangers and damages. Unfortunately, poverty is still the biggest problem in Latin America, and the people tend to support any project that promises economic relief. The prosecution of corrupt officials must be another priority, since most of these projects around the world get approved by corrupt governors or members of congress.

Finally, since these mega projects affect entire regions like the towns around Lake Nicaragua, there should be a referendum for people from the affected region to participate in approving the projects. The construction of the Nicaragua Canal was negotiated almost entirely with the presidential staff, and no organization could participate in or observe the negotiations of the project. If corrupt officials continue their rule of approving these projects, the situation will not change and there will be a day when Latin America will be without natural resources for even its own people.+

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