Dr. Ken Carpenter, UNM (Retired)
September 20, 2015

The government of Nicaragua recently signed a long-term lease agreement with a billionaire Chinese businessman to build a new interoceanic canal across southern Nicaragua to compete with the Panama Canal.  Ground was broken on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts last December, amid much local fanfare and a few violent protests.  The obstacles against completion of the canal are enormous.  It would be the largest engineering project in human history – wider, deeper and three times as long as the Panama Canal.  The source of funding, $50 billion or more, for construction of the waterway and two major seaports is unclear.  Environmentalists warn of ecological catastrophe,  there is economic opposition from Nicaraguan fisheries, agriculture and tourist industries, peasants and indigenous groups oppose being displaced from their lands, and some Nicaraguans fear loss of sovereignty to the Chinese.  The Nicaraguan government promises unprecedented economic development and full employment.  Dr. Carpenter will examine all these possible consequences if the canal is eventually completed, as well as the challenges to U.S. commercial, geopolitical, and military interests if the Chinese government becomes involved in the project.

Ken Carpenter is an adjunct instructor in the International Studies Institute at the University of New Mexico.  He recently retired from the UNM Global Education Office, where he served as Director and Associate Director for Education Abroad Programs for 18 years.  He has also taught courses in Political Science, Peace Studies, Sociology, and Freshman Learning Communities.  He previously worked for 10 years at the University of Oregon, where he earned a PhD in International Education.   He first traveled to Central America in 1980 as part of an international human rights delegation.   In 1994 he returned to Nicaragua for three years and co-founded a non-profit intensive Spanish language school and study abroad center, which he has helped manage for the past 20 years.  He has taken several groups of UNM students to Nicaragua and Costa Rica for summer study programs and has helped many students find opportunities for volunteer work in Central America.

Supported by Sandia National Labs and Haverland Carter Lifestyle Group