LA PAZ – The governments of Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru on Tuesday began the technical evaluation of the project to build a bi-oceanic railroad that could link ports on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans across the bulk of South America.
Bolivian Public Works Minister Milton Claros presided at the meeting, which included representatives from Paraguay, Peru, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Latin American Development Bank CAF.
Claros told reporters that this was the first technical meeting since the governments of the three countries signed memoranda to push politically for the rail line.
The plan is to link the Brazilian port of Santos with the Peruvian terminal of Ilo along a railroad 3,755 kilometers (2,328 miles) long, connecting the central zone of South America to the coasts and facilitating exports to Asia.
Bolivian President Evo Morales is pushing for the project with the conviction that it will be the Panama Canal of the 21st century.
Morales is scheduled to meet with the international delegations at the Government Palace and also with business executives from Germany, France and Switzerland who are interested in the interoceanic railway.
Claros emphasized that the initiative seeks to foster greater South American integration but also is designed to stimulate trade and business activity, with the possibility that the benefits could also accrue to Argentina and Uruguay if the railway connects with the Paraguay-Parana waterway.
He expressed the hope that the Brazilian and Uruguayan governments will involve themselves in the project and said that Paraguay has an interest in building a branch line from Bolivia into its territory.
Claros said that Paraguay has put forward an “interesting proposal” to connect the Bolivian town of Robore with its Capitan Carmelo Peralta zone so that goods can then be shipped along the waterway to or from the Atlantic.
Bolivia and Paraguay, which are landlocked nations, are the main drivers of the project, which has the support of Peruvian Vice President Martin Vizcarra, who on Tuesday, however, had to cancel his trip to La Paz due to serious problems at home caused by flooding, Bolivian authorities said.
Also attending the meeting were Paraguayan Public Works Deputy Minister Augustin Encina and Vizcarra’s cabinet chief, Carlos Estremadoyro, among others.
The project is anticipated to require a $10 billion investment, equal to a little less than a third of Bolivia’s yearly GDP.