Nicaraguan police blocked thousands of farmers and rural residents over the weekend from holding a march against a government plan to build a canal across the country, which would displace thousands of people.
"They are closing off all the roads. It’s pitiful what’s happening in Nicaragua," said one of the leaders of the demonstration, Francisca Ramirez, reports news agency AFP.
On Saturday, 22 April Police prevented buses and trucks carrying protesters from converging in the town of Juigalpa, east of the capital Managua, saying the demonstration was illegal.
A police statement said officers faced down "groups of people behaving with hostility, armed with clubs, machetes, rocks and firearms".
Ortega: thief, traitor, selling our country– Nicaraguan canal protesters
A lawyer for the protesters, Monica Lopez, said 20 of them were temporarily detained, but police did not confirm that.
The farmers are angry that President Daniel Ortega in 2013 organized for a Chinese consortium, HKND, to build the $50 billion canal in return for a concession to run it for at least 50 years.
The plan calls for between 30,000 and 120,000 rural inhabitants along its 276-kilometre length to be displaced and land to be expropriated.
"Ortega: thief, traitor, selling our country," yelled the protesters, AFP reported.
"I’m afraid they will take my land away," said one of them, Adolfo Jarquin, 56, who owns more than 245 acres.
Many of them have found it impossible to obtain bank loans, and municipal works along the canal’s path have come to a standstill, Ramirez said.
An opposition politician at the protest, Henry Ruiz, told AFP the canal was an "unconditional handover" of Nicaraguan land.
The canal is meant to rival the century-old Panama Canal. Thus far there has been no excavation, however, despite HKND saying it was meant to start at the end of last year.
Scientists in Nicaragua and around the world have warned that the canal would cause an environmental disaster for the country.
Questions persist over its commercial viability.
Image: Nicaraguans protesting against the Nicaraguan Canal on 10 December 2014 (Wikimedia Commons)