San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Panama Canal Expansion Project Remains Secretive

PANAMA CITY – President Martin Torrijos said in an interview with EFE this week that a project to expand the country’s international waterway – through which passes 4% of the world’s maritime trade – has not begun because preliminary studies on the matter have not been completed.Asked about criticism that the project is being handled with too much secrecy, Torrijos – who on Sept. 1 completed his first year in office – said that he could not discuss the Canal expansion “by stages” and that reports on the undertaking will be released “when they’re finished.”The expansion of the Panama Canal is one of the projects that has marked the presidency of Torrijos, whose father, strongman Omar Torrijos, was the architect of the United States’ return of the Canal to Panamanian control.However, the Panamanian people will have the last word on the prospective expansion project since it must be approved in a public referendum before any of the construction work can begin.The 42-year-old Torrijos said that “when we have concluded the studies, there will be a very broad discussion” of it so that the public can “conscientiously” make a decision on the project, which is sure to have a significant impact on the country’s development.Torrijos revealed that the project has continued to evolve and no longer calls for the construction of huge dams that would flood the canal basin.The president said that the project’s design “has advanced to a different system of locks that don’t require so much water (and that) make more efficient use of technology. It won’t be necessary to flood large areas, as had been thought initially.”

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