Nicaraguans protesting against their government’s plan to dig a giant waterway across the country to rival the Panama Canal got a celebrity boost yesterday when their compatriot Bianca Jagger turned up to support the cause.
The 72-year-old celebrity rights activist and ex-wife of Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger caused a commotion when she showed up at a march on 15 August in the remote village of La Fonseca, where residents fear they will be displaced by the gargantuan civil engineering scheme.
"I am here to give them my support and to show them that they are not alone, that their cause is just," Nicaraguan-born Jagger told news agency AFP.
She joined dozens of protesters, according to AFP, in calling on Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega to scrap the project.
Activists estimate that between 30,000 and 120,000 people could be displaced from their land by the long-stalled $50bn scheme, rights to which were granted by Ortega’s government to Chinese company HKND in 2013. Canal opponents, who are mostly subsistence farmers along the route, have challenged the project at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, reports AFP.
Scientists in Nicaragua and other countries have argued that the trans-oceanic canal, intended to take shipping business off the Panama Canal, would cause an environmental disaster, while Ortega and HKND insist it will boost the poor country’s economy.
Doubts persist over the economic viability of the canal, however, with many wondering who will finance it after HKND’s chairman and chief executive, the telecoms tycoon Wang Jing, had nearly 85% of his fortune wiped out by China’s stock market crisis in 2015.
A ceremony to start the canal’s construction was held in December 2014 but, amid protests and environmental impact reviews, little work has been done since.
Image: Bianca Jagger addresses a rally on human rights in Tibet in Vienna, 2012 (Wolfgang H. Wögerer, Vienna, Austria)
For GCR’s backgrounder on the project, see: