The government of Daniel Ortega has expelled US political specialist Evan Ellis from Nicaragua, alleging “he didn’t have official authorization to do research on the interoceanic canal project.”
Dr. Ellis is an expert on the relations between China and Latin America and a professor and researcher for the U.S. Defense Department’s War College. As such, he’s a civilian employee of the US government. He arrived in the country last Monday with an agenda that included interviews with diverse sectors with ties to the interoceanic canal project, including government officials, business leaders, diplomats, academics, journalists and activists from the social movements.
Nevertheless, before the first 24 hours of his stay in the country were up, he was the object of an expedited deportation procedure.
“At 11:15 pm, uniformed subjects identifying themselves as Immigration officials arrived at the Hilton Princess hotel and called me,” Ellis informed Confidencial in an early-morning e-mail.
“They asked me to come down to the lobby and notified me that the Nicaraguan government hadn’t authorized my research on the great canal. They gave me until 5 am (Tuesday) to pack my things,” he added.
“They’re taking me to the airport to throw me out of the country,” he indicated, before being forced to board a commercial flight to Miami.
The United States embassy in Managua did not comment on the expulsion and neither the Foreign Ministry nor Immigration explained the reasons for the deportation.
Ellis is a professor of Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army’s War College, an academic institution of the Defense department for their high military officers. That situation, he explained, makes him a civilian academic who travels with an official US government passport.
Dr. Ellis is the author of more than 120 academic works, including three books: China on the Ground in Latin America (2014), The Strategic Dimension of Chinese Engagement in Latin America (2013) and China in Latin America: The Whats and Wherefores (2009).
Early in June 2013, Ellis offered an interview with Confidencial in which he indicated that even though the advisors of Wang Jing (the head of the Canal project consortium) have affirmed that China is not behind the Great Canal, over the long run the project could be of interest to that power as an alternative for increasing trade.
At the end of that same month, Confidencial published an article by Ellis entitled, “The truth behind the Canal project,” in which he assured that “HK Nicaragua Canal Development (the franchise) doesn’t have the financial ties, construction contacts or management capacity necessary to carry out the project.”
Later, in December of 2014, Confidencial reproduced another article by Ellis, originally published in the magazine Latin Trade under the title of “The Nicaragua canal – commercial and strategic interests disguised as a megaproject?” in which he detailed how the canal project would represent “a highly lucrative opportunity for those who operate it, those that construct it, and those who own the land on which it will be built.”
Deported in under 24 hours
According to statements to Confidencial via Skype after his deportation, Ellis had planned his visit more than two months before through private contacts; however, he also had broad interchanges with official sources such as Francisco Campbell, Nicaragua’s ambassador in Washington, Paul Oquist, the secretary for the presidency, and Manuel Coronel Kautz, president of the National Authority of the Interoceanic Canal, with whom he had already confirmed an interview in Managua.
The Nicaraguan government was fully informed of his visit, he assured, and they were also notified by his embassy through diplomatic channels.
Ellis arrived at Nicaragua’s Augusto Cesar Sandino airport at 11:45 am on Monday and presented his official passport to immigration. “They asked me the purpose of my visit, and I responded that I’m a research professor for the Strategic Studies Institute of the War College.” Ellis went on to explain that he had come to conduct interviews about the canal project. “They admitted me with full knowledge of what I came to do here,” asserted Ellis, although hours later he was rejected by functionaries who identified themselves as members of the General Direction of Migration and Immigration.
At 6:30 that evening, Ellis attended a forum organized by the National Council in Defense of the Land, Lake and Sovereignty. The forum, held in Hispamer’s “Pablo Antonio Cuadra” Cultural Center, was convened to mark three years since the canal concession was approved. Ellis doesn’t think this had anything to do with his expulsion. “I didn’t attend a protest, I went to a photo exhibit, also attended by leaders of groups opposed to the canal. My objective as an academic was to get to know the different points of view, without advocating for any particular project,” he explained.
After eleven at night, when he was back resting in his hotel room, three uniformed officials – presumably from the Office of Immigration – called him down to the hotel lobby. “They notified me that the government hadn’t authorized my entry into the country to conduct interviews regarding the canal, and that I would need official authorization for that,” Ellis related, adding that “they ordered me to leave the country at 5 am, and told me that I’d have to go with them to the airport. I offered to go in a taxi, but they told me ‘no’.” From that moment on, a government official stayed on to guard the door of his room.
Ellis stated that he asked them to identify themselves, but none of the officials who deported him displayed any credentials or cited any articles of law that justified their proceedings against him.
Reflecting on his expulsion from Nicaragua, the researcher had this to say about the canal project: “Attracting international capital requires transparency and a lack of fear on the part of the investors. I wish Nicaragua the best, but I leave with the idea that there are factors present that could generate uncertainty and even fear in the investors. At any rate, I’m going to continue my investigations on China and the canal, because it’s a relevant topic,” he concluded.
Ellis’ deportation makes a total of twelve foreigners, including journalists, human rights activists, cartoonists and artists, who’ve been expelled from Nicaragua by Ortega’s government.
This article has been translated from Spanish by Havama Times.
Read the original version here.