Renewed Protest over the Nicaragua Canal Project

Daniel Ortega with his son Lauretano, wife Rosario Murillo and Wang Jing, who heads the canal consortium.
Daniel Ortega with his son Laureano, wife Rosario Murillo and Wang Jing, who heads the canal consortium. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — The consortium headed by Chinese entrepreneur Wang Jing, granted exclusive rights to build and operate an inter-ocean canal in Nicaragua for a term of up to 100 years, recently pushed back the start of construction most likely until 2017. That year Wang hopes the Nicaraguan government will continue to be headed by Daniel Ortega following another reelection in November 2016.

Ortega, through his son Laureano (the government’s representative in negotiations with the consortium) and his wife Rosario Murillo (the government spokeswoman and coordinator), promises to put a definitive end to poverty in Nicaragua through this mega-project. In addition, the Chinese entrepreneur and the government maintain that the 276-kilometer canal will be “environmentally-friendly.”

However, the battle over the land owned by farmers, which the government seeks to expropriate for canal purposes and other projects, including tourist resorts that will favor Wang Jing and his anonymous partners, is still forthcoming. It is expected to heat up in 2016, when the expropriation of lands for the canal project and other consortium investments should finally begin.

At the close of last week, farmers from different communities in the sights of the consortium staged the 56th protest against the project, continuing their campaign calling for the repeal of Law 840.

The legislation, passed with the votes of the governing Sandinista party deputies, entitles Wang Jing and the government to expropriate any properties they desire for purposes related to the canal or for other non-related investments.  Below is a note on this protest published by the online edition of Confidencial.

Nicaraguan Peasants Collect Signatures to Repeal Canal Law


March against the canal megaproject.
March against the canal megaproject.

On Saturday, January 9, hundreds of peasants rallied in La Fonseca, Nueva Guinea, demanding that the law authorizing the construction of Nicaragua’s interoceanic canal, better known as Law 840, be repealed. This way, the farmers who have assembled to create the National Council for the Defense of the Land, Lake and Sovereignty staged their 56th protest and began collecting signatures to request that parliament annul the legislation.

According to Octavio Ortega Arana, one of the coordinators of the National Council, community members have collected two thousand signatures to date. Most were collected at El Tule, Rio San Juan and La Fonseca, the hard core of anti-canal protests. This past Monday, the initiative was taken further towards the southern Caribbean region, towards the town of Punta Gorda.

Civil society and human rights organizations, including the Popol Na Foundation and the Eco-Abogados law initiative, which support the peasants, took part in the protest Saturday. The Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH), whose chairwoman Vilma Nuñez signed the document presented by the peasants, was also in attendance.

“We’ve made progress and we’re going to continue collecting signatures, not only in the canal area, but throughout the country as well, so that we do not run into obstacles in parliament,” said Francisca Ramirez, vice-coordinator of the National Council.

Monica Lopez Baltodana, from Popol Na, explained that the collection of signatures has become more complicated because many peasants have no identity documents. To present the initiative to parliament, protesters need a minimum of five thousand signatures. Members of the community are also calling for the annulment of the documents associated to the Framework Franchise Agreement, which grants discretional rights to Chinese entrepreneur Wang Jing.