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Southern Nicaragua communities protest Ortega’s canal plans

October 22, 2014

Read The Tico Times’ recent story on opposition to the canal project, “Nicaragua canal survey off to rocky start marked by fear and mistrust.” 

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Small-scale farmers from communities in Nicaragua’s southern Caribbean zone protested Tuesday against planed land expropriations orchestrated by the government of Daniel Ortega and the Chinese company HKND in order to build a massive interoceanic canal.

“We’re afraid they’re going to leave us in the street,” protester Juana Toledo told local press during a peaceful march in Nueva Guinea, in the La Fonseca region of the southern Caribbean.

“No to the canal. Yes to living on our property with dignity,” proclaimed one protester’s sign. Hundreds of local residents turned out for the anti-canal march.

Residents along the planned canal route from the Pacific to the Caribbean have held at least seven protests in the last month against the Gran Canal of Nicaragua, which Ortega has promised will lift the country out of poverty.

In addition to Nueva Guinea, protests have taken place in the departments of San Juan de Nicaragua and Rivas.

Last week, Ortega said the canal is “the only path Nicaragua has” to escape poverty, which affects half of the country’s more than 6 million citizens.

In 2013, the Sandinista government granted Chinese company HK Nicaragua Development Investment (HKND) exclusive rights to build and operate the planned 278-kilometer canal for 50 years, with the option to extend the contract for an additional 50 years. The government has said the project will cost $50 billion, but skeptics have said the total cost – if the canal is ever built – likely will be much greater.

Ortega has promised construction will begin in December, starting with a port on the Brito River, on the southern Pacific coast. Later, the canal is mapped to cross Lago Cocibolca, the largest freshwater lake in Central America. It will end at Punto Gorda, on the southern Caribbean coast, according to HKND.

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