Panama’s leader seeking voter support for canal plan

first_imgPANAMA CITY, Panama – Panama’s president said a planned expansion of the Panama Canal would define the waterway’s “role in the 21st century” and on Monday called on voters to support a referendum to pay for the proposal. The expansion, to make way for huge new container ships that can carry twice as much cargo, is expected to cost $5.3 billion – in a country whose government budget is $6.5 billion a year. It will be put to voters in a referendum later this year. In a speech televised nationwide Monday evening, President Martin Torrijos said the expansion, approved by the board of directors of the Panama Canal, was “the most important decision about the canal and its role in the 21st century.” The biggest ships that can pass through the canal’s current locks are known as “Panamax” vessels and can carry 4,000 cargo containers. They barely fit in the locks, which are about 108 feet wide. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl eventThe project calls for the construction of a third set of locks of water chambers that will allow the large “Post-Panamax” class of cargo ships to use the 50-mile waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The president – whose father, Omar Torrijos, negotiated the 1979 treaty that eventually gave Panama total control over the canal – appealed to Panamanians to support the expansion. The government’s determination to widen the canal is fueled by fears that newer, larger ships will seek other routes between the Atlantic and the Pacific. “The Panama Canal route is facing competition,” Torrijos said. “If we do not meet the challenge to continue to give a competitive service other routes will emerge that will replace ours. It would be unforgivable to refuse to improve the capacity of the waterway.”last_img

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