Nicaragua – Over 10,000 march through the main streets of Juigalpa, Chontales, to demand the repeal of Law 840 or Law of the Grand Canal. Demonstrators gathered Saturday in the central Nicaraguan city to protest the construction of a $50 billion (44 billion euros) canal that will run through their land. Displacing their families and farming livelihood.
Residents are also concerned that Lake Nicaragua, the main freshwater source in the area will be damaged by either salinization, sedimentation or depletion.
“We need to defend the sovereignty of Nicaragua, the land of the campesinos. We will defend Lake Nicaragua, “said Raul Oporta peasant farmer, originally from New Guinea, as he walked the streets of Juigalpa, Chontales.
The rally organizers estimated that more than ten thousand people from around the country attended the march. They protested the canal project, an engineering cost that is estimated at 50 billion. They painted on the walls and public buildings and shouted “traitors” to Daniel Ortega, while some burned flags of the ruling party. It was attended by farmers, political leaders, human rights organizations, nongovernmental organizations and much of national & international press.
“The dictatorial government is imposing their will and without the support of the population for the Canal,” said the farmer Norman Zeledon, originally from Juigalpa.
“The population is marginalized and it(Government) is threatening to expropriate their lands and destroy the lake. The fight is something I have to continue,” he said.
The defense of Lake Nicaragua was one of the main slogans on the march. Juigalpa’s source of drinking water. “Come, come, march with us,” they invited campesinos from El Tule, Rio San Juan, to the inhabitants of Juigalpa who left their homes to see happen to the protesters.
Saturday’s march was the 47th in areas that would be affected by the route of the canal and the second national protest.
Sandinista lawmakers on June 13, 2013 unilaterally passed into law a presidentially mandated canal concession (Law 840) that gives unknown Chinese firm HKND-Group a 50-year contract to “design, develop, engineer, finance, construct, possess, operate, maintain and administer” the Great Nicaragua Canal megaproject. The upstart canal company, which is based in Hong Kong but registered in Grand Cayman Island, would own the project for the first 50 years and become a minority partner for the second 50 years.
The concession law, which was written in English and opposed by every opposition party in Nicaragua, was rushed into the books in less than a week, without any public debate or consultation from indigenous groups whose lands will be expropriated, in violation of the Atlantic Coast Autonomy Law.
Almost simultaneously in Managua, the principal adviser of the project concession to the company HKND, Bill Wild, he tried to clarify unsuccessfully major questions that seek to work from 2013, related to expropriations, environmental damage and sources of funding.
The company Hong Kong Nicaragua Development (HKND) called a press conference “to clarify misunderstandings” about the work.
Wild promised that there will be no environmental damage, the Lake of Nicaragua will not suffer from salinization, or sedimentation or decreased level. But he shied away from the issues that have questioned more funds as project financing in general or the public presentation of the Environmental Impact delivered to the government on 31 May.
Wild said about funding sources that the issue is handled by his boss, Wang Jing, and that he would report thereon. On the environmental impact study, he added, the government asked them for between one and four months to analyze the document, which is then made public until after the consultations and made available to the public.