The Canal Concession Will Have a “Grave Impact” for Nicaragua

Rural leader Francisca Ramirez accuses authorities of persecution

Anti-canal movement leader Francisca Ramirez (c) has denounced her persecution by the authorities. Foto: Carlos Herrera/confidencial
Anti-canal movement leader Francisca Ramirez (c) has denounced her persecution by the authorities. Foto: Carlos Herrera/confidencial

By Wilfredo Miranda Aburto  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The International Human Rights Federation (FIDH) presented in Managua a study of the Inter-Oceanic Canal concession’s “grave impact” on the population on October 14.  This mega-project seems to be dissipating as time passes, but for the human rights organization it’s now “a process of mega land-grabbing.”

The study was realized in conjunction with the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH), which carried out the fieldwork.  One hundred thirty-one rural residents were interviewed from 58 communities along the canal route.

Among the principal conclusions of the study, the most notable are the criminalization of protest, the harassment of the farmers involved with the anti-canal movement and the militarization of the communities.

Francisca Ramírez, leader of the National Council for the Defense of our Land, Lake and Sovereignty, was present at the study’s presentation and took advantage of the occasion to denounce “the persecution” that she suffers from the National Police and Army.  She stated that on October 1, her husband was detained with no explanation while transporting basic grains to the north of the country.

The farmer, a native of the Colonia La Fonseca in the department of Nueva Guinea, affirmed that she has received visits from the FSLN political secretaries from two different communities; both have accused her of being the head of armed bands and drug-trafficking groups.

“There’s daily harassment of the rural residents. We’ve now lost the right to be farmers and the right to health care, because when we go the Health Center we find some thirty members of the riot squad there,” Ramírez assured.

The political secretaries have also told her that the anti-canal movement is financed by outside organizations and that they’ve tried to link it to the political parties. “We’ve demonstrated that our struggle is for our rights and territories,” she pointed out.

The study prepared by the FIDH, a world-wide federation of 180 human rights organizations including CENIDH, maintains that in the face of citizen mobilizations, the government of Daniel Ortega has opted to persecute the leaders and repress the social protest, making use of the National Police as well as the riot squads, with full approval from the authorities.  This was evident, the study says, in the national march held on October 27, 2014, and in the repression of rural residents from El Tule, a community of the Río San Juan municipality, during Xmas of that same year.

“In conjunction with CENIDH, we’ve been able to document the fact that the country’s judicial system is being utilized to repress these leaders. The judicial system is there to defend the population, not to criminalize them.”

FIDH Vice President Juan Francisco Soto presented the study together with Dr. Vilma Nuñez, the president of CENIDH.  According to Soto, the Federation is concerned about the human rights violations provoked by the canal project, one that also lacks reliable studies to determine its viability, and reliable investor commitments to assure its materialization.

“In conjunction with CENIDH, we’ve been able to document the fact that the country’s judicial system is being utilized to repress these leaders.  The judicial system is there to defend the population, not to criminalize them,” Soto lamented.

Soto also criticized the use of the Army to protect a private company, in this case the HKND Investment Group, property of Chinese businessman Wang Jing who was awarded the concession for this gargantuan project with a cost of some 70 billion dollars.

Dr. Nuñez affirmed that the Rama-Kriol indigenous peoples who will be affected by the project didn’t receive an informed, open consultation previous to the agreement consenting to this company’s use of their lands.  In fact, the human rights defender said, the regime has convinced certain communities to sign permits that don’t represent the feeling of all the indigenous population.

In a broad analysis, the study criticizes the “damaging character of the companies” under the umbrella of Wang Jing, referring to HKND, and asks that Holland, Hong Kong and the Caiman Islands “adopt the necessary measures so that companies” inscribed in their territories “don’t undermine our right to enjoy our economic, social and cultural rights.”

Both the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center and the International Human Rights Federation request that the UN working group on companies and human rights dig deeper into the problems posed by mega-projects like the canal.  In the same way, they demand that the UN Special Rapporteur and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission request an on-site mission in Nicaragua to “evaluate the impact on the rights protected by their mandates in the matter of the canal concession.”


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