Managua, the Capital city of the country has been paralysed due to the protests.[dropcap color=”black”]T[/dropcap]housands of Nicaraguan peasants marched from the countryside to the capital to oppose the construction of a canal whose grant was given to a Chinese businessman, and whose construction is valued at $50 billion dollars.
The project has encountered many protests from environmental organizations, although Daniel Ortega’s government argues that it is a great commercial and strategic opportunity.
The entry point was the busy North Road, where the international airport is located and where dozens of trucks, traditionally used to transport cattle to the north, mobilized peasants who fear confiscation of their land and the consequent forced displacement.
As peasants organised their move to the Capital, the National Police of Nicaragua imposed roadblocks inside the country and threatened with fines of thousands of Cordobas for those who dared invade Managua. But that did not stop them.
People from all ages have overcome the obstacles imposed by the government, which they say aims to weaken the opposition to the Canal. People are organised by local peasant groups from all regions of the country. Their leaders have been facing the powerful state machinery head on as they organise the opposition movement.
“We are here to defend our lands,” a woman said. She had been leading a caravan of solidarity with peasants who decided to donate food for the inhabitants of the dry zone of the country hit by the drought, but they were arrested by the National Police under Government orders.
The mandate was that all humanitarian aid had to be surrendered unless it was approved by the executive body led by Daniel Ortega.
At the rally on Tuesday eight people were injured and the leaders of the march claimed that supporters of the Sandinista Front fired against some of the protesters once the peasant march had dissolved.
The government of President Ortega called on his supporters to disperse through the capital in what was seen as a sign of provocation by opponents.
Since Monday, thousands of government workers, supporters of the Front and the so-called “motor” of the Sandinista Front -notorious for attacking those who speak against the government- were distributed through the main streets of the city to show their support for the Sandinista Executive, as the first lady and government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo called for a “Walk for work and peace.” Murillo is, in fact, the chief of staff of the Sandinista Executive, a kind of prime minister who makes the daily decisions of government.
Initial plans of those who oppose the construction of the Canal were to march to the headquarters of the National Assembly, the Parliament of Nicaragua, to demand that deputies repeal Law 840, which establishes the terms of the concession for an Interoceanic Canal, which would give full rights to the Chinese for the next 100 years. In this case, the presence of riot officers prevented the protesters from reaching the parliament building.
Opposition party leader, Carlos Langrand, said that the demonstration was a sign of discontent generated in this Central American country for a project whose concession was given without consultation with the population.
The Nicaragua Canal is projected to occupy an area of 278 kilometers from the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua to the Pacific.
The project has aroused fears among environmental groups and human rights defenders. The first claims is that its construction will be catastrophic for the flora and fauna of the country, mainly the Great Lake of Nicaragua, an 8,000 square kilometre natural feature of the country and the largest in Central America.
Human rights activists fear the consequences of a massive human displacement in the Canal route, which, they say, would affect tens of thousands of Nicaraguans.
The project, according to its opponents, creates uncertainty about the lack of sufficient studies to indicate its technical and commercial viability. It also raises doubts about the ability of Chinese tycoon Wang to convince foreign investors to put their money into the construction, especially after it became known that the tycoon’s fortune decreased by 84% after the collapse of the shares of his telecommunications company, Xinwei.
Ortega’s government says it is “a huge engineering project” that will affect only 1% of the surface of the Great Lake and that it will respect indigenous people’s right to negotiate a “fair price” for the expropriation land.