Latin America is now high on China’s radar as the superpower continues its quest to gain control of the world.
China’s heightened interest in the Latin America is flaunted through its extravagant but stained Belt and Road Initiative.
Chinese interests in Latin American commercial ports combine military and economic aspects that align with the goals of its Belt and Road Initiative. With this initiative, the Chinese government intends to connect Asia, Oceania, Europe, Africa, and the Americas via roads, railways, and oil and gas pipelines.
Recently, a digital military magazine—Dialogo—reported that Latin American countries are increasingly handing over control and development of port terminals to Chinese companies.
Guyana could have been in a similar boat. A few years ago, under the rule of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government, China was willing to support the construction of a deep water harbour in Guyana. Luckily, this was scrapped.
However, Guyana partnered with China on many other ventures including the controversial Cheddi Jagan International Airport Expansion project that is said to be grossly overpriced. For that project, Guyana borrowed US$138M from China.
A huge loan was also taken from China for the Skeldon Factory that proved to be a complete waste of money. The Skeldon factory was built at a cost of US$200M, US$40M of that sum was sourced from China. Guyana is still repaying that loan while not getting the use of the factory.
Also, Guyana took a US$39.6M loan from the Export-Import Bank of China. This was used for the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) transmission line dubbed another waste of money.
A few years after those deals were made, the PPP/C was removed and APNU +AFC took over.
The coalition, while in opposition, lamented how vulnerable Guyana made itself to China through the many loans taken and projects on which Chinese contactors were involved.
However, recently, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge signed on to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with China, making way for projects to be developed under the Belt and Road Initiative. This is the same initiative recently highlighted by Dialogo.
Dialogo stated that Latin America seems to be an easy target for China as the region is hungry for infrastructural development and most countries do not have the money to invest.
Dialogo said, “…China is slowly taking over the region’s strategic trade and defense points. The tactic is clear, and China uses it in other parts of the world: money for ports in exchange for power.”
The magazine highlighted Panamá, a country with two of the most important ports in the region—Colón and Balboa. Panama is one of the nations in China’s line of sight.
The Dialogo stated, “The Chinese company—Landbridge Group—is building the Panamá Colón Container Port, a terminal for neopanamax ships, with an investment of more than US$1 billion. In addition, China’s Harbour Engineering Company Ltd. is building a port station for cruises in the Amador area.”
The magazine pointed out that closer to Guyana, in Brazil, state-owned Chinese company Merchants Port controls the Paranaguá Port, the second largest in the country surpassed only by the Santos Port.
To gain control of the terminal, the Asian company bought Brazilian company Terminal de Contêineres Paranaguá, which managed the port, for $935 million in 2017.
In 2017, the Chinese company China Construction showed interest in developing and funding infrastructure in Mexico’s most important port, Manzanillo. Many Chinese business people are also interested in investing in the special economic zone Mexico seeks to develop around Lázaro Cárdenas Port, in Michoacán state.
The initiative needs an initial investment of $90 million, and focuses on promoting metallurgic and steel industries near the port.
Further, Dialogo reported that in Peru, the Chinese company—Cosco Shipping—will develop Chancay Port with an investment of about $2 billion. The governments of Colombia and China signed a memorandum of understanding in 2016, enabling the Asian nation to develop a series of projects near Buenaventura Port. China promised an investment of $16 million in the area.
The magazine also noted that in Uruguay, Chinese company Shangdong Baoma Fishery propelled in 2016 the development of a fishing port requiring $200 million. Apart from the terminal, the plan includes building a plant to store fishing equipment and the manufacture fishmeal.
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