Thousands Protest Against Nicaragua’s Canal Project

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Thousands of locals took to the streets across Nicaragua on June 13 in protest against Nicaragua’s canal project.

The protesters claimed that Nicaragua’s canal project will displace some 120,000 farmers, devastate the country’s environment, and sell the country to the Chinese.

Images of the protests show protesters marching through the streets, burning the flag of the governing political party, and spray painting government vehicles and posters.

Estimates of the number of protesters that took part in the protest range from 15,000 to 30,000.

“He can be sure of an uprising over the land expropriations for the canal, because this is the largest campesino movement in the history of Nicaragua,” Congressman Victor Hugo Tinoco, of the dissident Sandinista Renovation Movement, told Fusion.

This isn’t the first protest against the canal project in Nicaragua. According to Fusion, more than 40 have already taken place. Also, in mid-May, Nicaragua deported two human rights lawyers after their plane landed at Managua’s airport. Both lawyers had worked with groups opposing the project.

Protesters and human-rights lawyers are just another hurdle the canal project faces. A report published by Yale 360 earlier this year also identified obstacles to the canal project such as environmental concerns and natural disasters. One scientist in the report claims that around 400,000 hectares of rain forests and wetlands would be destroyed. Another expert in the report claims that the cost to fix the canal after a strong hurricane could be as much as much as the initial construction cost, which is expected to be around US$50 billion. The proposed canal route sees frequent seismic and volcanic activity as well as hurricanes.

The canal is being spearheaded by Chinese billionaire Wang Jing, Chairman and CEO of the privately held international development firm HKND Group, headquartered in Hong Kong. Wang has commented several times that he has no formal ties to China‘s government, but rumors still persist, as shown in the Nicaraguan protesters’ suspicions of selling-out to the Chinese.

With the approval of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, the project was rushed through the National Assembly with little to no debate and was granted to the HKND Group in a no-bid concession, giving the group a 50-year lease on the land.

Construction of the canal began in December and is expected to last five years.

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