Thousands protest canal in Nicaragua over land issue

As many as 15,000 Nicaraguans are reported to have taken to the streets on 13 June in protest over the planned $50bn transoceanic canal being developed by a Chinese company.

Carrying signs accusing Nicaragua’s president Daniel Ortega of being a "sellout" and saying "Out with the Chinese", the protesters, mostly farmers, marched in the central Nicaraguan city of Juigalpa, which is not on the proposed canal route.

According to Spanish-language news agency EFE, the protesters were angry about a provision in the country’s canal law that compels residents along the route to sell their land to Hong Kong-based company HKND at whatever price the company offers. In 2013 the Nicaraguan government gave HKND the concession to build and operate the canal, which would link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and rival the Panama Canal.

Some 15,000 people took part in the march, surpassing the 10,000 that organizers expected, Sandinista Renewal Movement, alternate Congresswoman Silvia Gutierrez told EFE.

There were some scuffles between protesters and government supporters, but only one person was reported injured and police did not intervene to stop minor acts of vandalism.

In February Prof. Jorge Huete-Pérez, vice president of the Academy of Sciences for Nicaragua, told GCR that opposition to the canal is growing because of what he called the government’s secrecy over the project, and that the state’s suppression of protests has resulted in "militarised" zones along the canal route.

Huete-Pérez and others have called for an environmental impact assessment, conducted by UK consultancy ERM for HKND and delivered to the Nicaraguan government on 29 May, to be made public. To build the canal HKND plans to dredge a deep channel across Lake Nicaragua, which scientists worry will do serious environmental damage.

Earlier this month it emerged that a panel of independent scientists levelled harsh criticisms against the environmental impact study after ERM offered them partial sight of it.

The study will be discussed by an "inter-institutional commission" this month before being voted on by Nicaragua’s canal commission in July, Telemaco Talavera, spokesman of the government canal commission, has said.

Photograph: Protesters in Juigalpa, Nicaragua, on Saturday 13 June 2015 (

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