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Q:

How long did it take to construct the Panama Canal?

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According to Stephen Kinzer's 2006 book Overthrow, in 1898 the chief of the French Canal Syndicate (a group that owned large swathes of land across Panama), Philippe Bunau Varilla, hired William Nelson Cromwell (of the US law firm Sullivan & Cromwell) to lobby the US Congress to build a canal across Panama, and not across Nicaragua. In 1902, after having run into a 10-cent Nicaraguan postal stamp produced in the US by the American Bank Note Company erroneously depicting a fuming Momotombo volcano (which was nearly dormant and stands more than 160 km (100 miles) from the proposed Nicaraguan canal path) and taking advantage of a particularly volcanic year in the Caribbean, Cromwell planted a story in the New York Sun reporting that the Momotombo volcano had erupted and caused a series of seismic shocks. He thereafter sent leaflets with the above stamps pasted on them to all U.S. Senators as witness to the volcanic activity in Nicaragua. more
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