Nicaragua : Government must revoke the interoceanic canal concession

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(Paris, Manuagua) The Nicaraguan government must revoke the interoceanic canal concession and other mega-projects granted to companies belonging to the Chinese investor Wang Jing, declared today FIDH and CENIDH in Managua on the occasion of the presentation of the report “Nicaragua : Impact of Interoceanic canal concession on human rights. The resistance of rural communities”.

“Respecting nature and the rights of rural communities is not a luxury. It’s a duty. These projects will have a dramatic impact on the environment and on human rights. It is unimaginable to sell off territory as such. The government must back out.”

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President

The report presents the numerous human rights violations which could result from these mega projects. It also explains how this concession is akin to an exceptional system. A system in which the constitutional and legal guarantees provided for by the Nicaraguan law are not respected; especially with regards to the rights to property, adequate housing, water, food, the right to live in a healthy environment, and the right to prior, free and informed consultation.

The organisations denounce in the report the expropriations process which doesn’t provide for any administrative or judicial recourse, but which does provide for a blatantly insufficient compensation. As it is, between 30 000 and 120 000 peasants would have no way of relocating, or meeting their food requirements. It must be noted that these numbers only concern the canal construction zone, because no information is available regarding the areas affected by the other mega-projects.

The canal concession includes the Cocibolca Lake crossing, main fresh water reserve for all of Central America (the size of the island of Puerto Rico). Despite the fact that Nicaraguan law, prohibits water concessions from exceeding 30 years, the concession has been granted for 116 years. The Canal construction will surely affect the 80 000 people who use the lake’s water and the 40 different varieties of fish living in it. It will also cause hydrocarbon pollution, salinity and turbidity problems. No element related to sustainable development has been included in the project.

“The State of Nicaragua has qualified the leaders who are opposed to the canal concession of enemies of development. This rhetoric is unbearable. No one here is against development. We simply want a sustainable and responsible development respectful of laws and human beings.”

declared Vilma Nuñez, President of CENIDH

According to the documents FIDH and CENIDH had access to, the retribution to Nicaragua in exchange for exclusive rights afforded to the investor are derisory.

All these observations lead to the belief by the organisations that this operation amounts to unprecedented land and water grabbing.

There had not only been no call for tender concerning the project, but also , none of the investor’s companies who had been identified to partake in the project has the experience in that kind of works. Some of them, registered in the Caiman islands, in Hong Kong, in the Netherlands or in China, seem to simply be smoke-screen companies. All those facts added to the unbalanced contractual agreements could point to the possible existence of a corruption scheme.

The organisations met with 131 persons from the area where the canal would be built. All maintain that the State tried to intimidate the communities mobilised against the canal concession by notably reinforcing the presence of the police, the military and multiplying road checks in the area. The last demonstrations were severely repressed or prevented, transforming the canal route in an exception zone.

 the report in Spanish
 the sum-up of the report in English
 the sum-up of the report in Spanish

See here the interview to Jimena Reyes, FIDH Americas Director

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