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article imageAnti-canal protesters accuse Nicaragua police of blocking convoy

By AFP     Nov 29, 2016 in World

Nicaraguan police fired teargas and rubber bullets at a convoy of people protesting a giant cross-country canal project that threatens to boot them off their land, according to organizers.

The incident occurred in Nueva Guinea, 300 kilometers (nearly 200 miles) southeast of the capital Managua, as they tried to drive to the city to stage their protest, said Monica Lopez, a lawyer leading a foundation that is helping the rural protesters.

"Many" protesters were wounded and beaten, she said, without giving a number.

Images on social media taken by protesters and local journalists showed the demonstrators getting out of their trucks to clear obstacles placed on the road.

"They shot at us (with rubber bullets)... burned the trucks and wanted to burn us too," another protest leader, Francisca Ramirez, told broadcast media.

Nicaragua's government has contracted Chinese firm HKND to build and run a canal running across the country, from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific one, in a $50 billion project aimed at rivaling the century-old canal in Panama.

No excavation work has been carried out so far, and many observers question whether the canal will ever be built.

The International Federation for Human Rights last month said the government of President Daniel Ortega was trampling people's rights with the project, and police and soldiers had "severely repressed" protests. It urged him to drop the canal plan.

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