Updated 09:39 PM EDT, Fri, Oct 30, 2020

Indigenous Groups in Nicaragua Pressured into Signing Approval to an Interoceanic Canal Project?

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Indigenous officials of the Rama-Kriol Territorial Government have been complaining that they are being pressured to give their approval to an interoceanic canal project.

The indigenous authorities said that they are under pressure to sign "a document giving the free, previous and informed consent of the Indian people... for the megaproject to be carried out on their territory," according to a public complaint announced by the Legal Assistance Center for Indigenous Peoples, Fox News Latino reported. The natives didn't name national and regional officials in their complaint.

The state-run Nicaraguan Grand Interoceanic Canal Commission aims to obtain around 263 sq. kilometers (102 sq. miles) of the Rama-Kriol indigenous territories, Fox News Latino added. The project requires construction of an interoceanic waterway that will measure up to 276 kilometers (171 miles) long, 520 meters (1,700 feet) wide, and 30 meters (98 feet) deep. The structure will connect the country's Pacific and Caribbean (Atlantic) coasts and will serve as a competitor to the Panama Canal.

Indian governors said that Nicaragua's laws protect their territory from any type of divisions or its likely disappearance. Indian authorities also asked President Daniel Ortega to "stop this violation of human rights and constitutional guarantees," the news outlet further reported. The Nicaraguan leader has legalized their territory between 2000 and 2010.

In addition, the indigenous leaders fear that they would be taken to the capital city, Managua, to "make them sign the document there," Fox News Latino noted.

Nicaragua's government approved the project's environmental impact study in November 2015, Business News Americas reported. However, almost no physical efforts have been done since the project's concessionaire, the HKND Nicaragua Grand Canal, began construction in December 2014.

HKND's project head for the canal, Bill Wild, said in late November that the project was "behind schedule" by approximately a year, the news outlet added. The film also said that additional studies were being conducted to determine the canal's final technical facets.

HKND has blamed the project's late construction to the environmental study's delay, which was only approved by authorities in November, The Rakyat Post reported.

In the town of Rivas, people have been uneasy and worried over the canal project, the news outlet noted. Rivas is located near the opening of the Brito River, where the Pacific Ocean gateway will be constructed.

Even though the Nicaraguan government has promised its 200,000 residents that the canal would bring wealth upon its completion, rural inhabitants on the outskirts fear that their lives will be uprooted to make way for the huge project, The Rakyat Post added.

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