La Prensa confirmed that the Interoceanic Grand Canal Authority does not even have offices. The Ortega government, however, assigned it 7.24 million Cordobas in this year’s budget.
by Lucia Navas (La Prensa)
HAVANA TIMES – Nicaragua’s Interoceanic Grand Canal Authority as an institution does not exist. La Prensa managed to confirm that this entity does not even have offices, despite the fact that each year it receives millions of Córdoba from the General Budget of the Republic for administrative expenses and staff. In the 2019 budget, 7.24 million Córdoba (just under a quarter of a million USD) were allocated to that entity, which since 2013 has received a total of 30.5 million Cordoba.
We were able to confirm that the private office of Manuel Coronel Kautz, who is president of the Grand Canal Authority, at some point was the place from which the state institution operated or at least received documents addressed to the institution. Coronel Kautz is one of the old allies of the dictator Daniel Ortega, who has been awarded with several positions including deputy foreign minister, and since February 13, 2019, is president of the Board of Directors of the Nicaraguan State oil company Petronic.
The team from La Prensa looked for Coronel Kautz on Monday, June 17, at the new Petronic offices, located in the Santa Ana neighborhood, District II of Managua, but the news team was not allowed even to pass from the gate. One of the security guards supposedly telephoned the office of Coronel Kautz to inform on the news team’s request to interview the official. But, after a few minutes the guard indicated that Petronic’s secretary—he did not give a name—said to: “look for him in his office in Las Colinas,” without giving an exact address.
“But, mister Coronel Kautz works here at Petronic?” we insisted. The answer was the same: to go search for him at his private office. That is what the team did, however, the offices are not in Las Colinas, but in Bolonia, two blocks northeast of the National Port Authority (EPN). It is a big house with a yellow wall around it, where, according to the neighbors, once operated the Praxis Art Gallery.
The property is guarded by the security company “El Goliat,” one of the companies linked to the presidential family of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. The team of La Prensa asked if there were the offices of the Grand Canal Authority, to which one of the guards said “no.”
“And, the offices of Manuel Coronel Kautz?”, we asked. The answer of the security personnel was: “yes, they are here.” It was requested to speak with the official, but when the news team identified itself as La Prensa, the guard requested our identification cards and went inside the offices. When he returned, he said that Coronel Kautz’s assistant—he also did not give a name—requested that we leave a phone number promising to call to relay if he accepted the interview or not. A card with telephone numbers and E mails was left, but the call never came.
If they do not exist, in what do they spend?
If the offices of the Grand Canal Authority do not exist, in what personnel and administrative expenses are the 7.24 million Cordoba paid (just under a quarter of a million USD) that in 2019 were allocated in the public budget for that entity?
Monica Lopez, environmental lawyer and member of the Cocibolca Group, said this is another element that proves that the goal of the Ortega Murillo regime with the Interoceanic Canal Project was to “create a corruption scheme.” “For years we have denounced the squandering of public assets represented by the canal concession,” said Lopez.
In Law 800, approved in 2012, the Interoceanic Grand Canal Authority of Nicaragua was created to be responsible “for the promotion and negotiation activities to obtain the necessary capital investment for the implementation of the Nicaragua Interoceanic Grand Canal Project and other related transportation and infrastructure projects.
The Grand Canal Authority received funds of the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) since 2013, based on Law 800 for belonging to the State. That year, dictator Ortega signed the Framework Agreement with the company HKND, of the Chinese magnate Wang Jing, in which he was granted the concession for 100 years of the territory of Nicaragua for the construction of the Interoceanic Canal.
The megaproject was presented by Ortega as a mega project that would lift Nicaragua out of poverty. Six years later there is nothing of this project. The Chinese businessman Wang Jing has not been seen again and even HKND closed its offices in Managua years ago.
Despite the fact that the Interoceanic Project did not come true, the regime has allocated 30.5 million Cordoba each year from the state budget between 2013 to 2019 to the Interoceanic Grand Canal Authority, whose use has not been accounted for. Said entity, also, borrowed 35.9 million Cordoba from the “Banco Corporativo S. A.” (Bancorp), owned by Albanisa, a company controlled by associates of Ortega and Murillo, of which the authorities have not explained the use of those resources either.
Cocibolca Group confirms
The environmentalist Lopez explained that on several occasions they arrived as Cocibolca Group to leave letters addressed to the Grand Canal Authority, in the private office of Coronel Kautz, but that in all those occasions there was no contact with the personnel that would allow them to confirm if they actually worked for that public entity or if these were the same employees of Coronel Kautz.
“Personally I went to deliver letters on several occasions to that office in Bolonia, which were received with the seal of the Canal Authority. Obviously, they were also the private offices of Coronel Kautz, and surely because of the failure of the megaproject, now they want to deny its existence,” said environmentalist Lopez.
The board of directors of the Cocibolca Group consider “absurd” that even though the canal project failed, it continues to cost money to Nicaraguans. “For what are they using those funds? I guess it is a combination of corruption and we also have to suspect too, resources for the repression,” said Lopez.
It was Manuel Coronel Kautz, as president of the Grand Canal Authority, who negotiated loans with Bancorp to supposedly cover part of the operations of this institution which only exists on paper, as published by La Prensa this week based on documentation obtained.
A letter of December 10, 2015, signed by Coronel Kautz asked Francisco Lopez, then President of the state-owned Petronic, to instruct Bancorp to approve on behalf of the Grand Canal funds up to 11.98 million Cordoba that he argued were needed to cover the entity’s budget in 2016, similar amounts had been given in 2014 and 2015.
It is not known if these credits with Bancorp were honored or will be transferred to the General Budget of the Republic.
Bancorp was forced to begin its liquidation due to the sanctions imposed by the United States which linked it to the corruption scheme of the Ortega Murillo regime with the Venezuelan dictatorship.
Environmentalist Lopez notes that it is no surprise that the bank of Albanisa appears involved with the failed Grand Canal project because “the entire corporative scheme of Bancorp is obviously as malicious and corrupt as that of the canal concession.”
“Let us not forget that they created more than 16 briefcase companies, registered in tax havens, which appear as “owners and beneficiaries of the concession,” referred Lopez who insisted that what she called “the spider web of Wang Jing, should be investigated, to diagnose if it is also being used in illegitimate regime operations, especially now that Bancorp has been the subject to sanctions.”