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Preparatory work on Nicaragua's controversial multibillion-dollar inter-oceanic canal began against a backdrop of protests, arrests and violence, local media reported.
On December 22, developers broke ground on the project, marked by two ceremonies organized by the Nicaraguan government and Chinese developer HKND Group, which was awarded a 50-year concession to build and operate the waterway.
But the official launch events – one in Rivas department and one in capital Managua – took place amid road closures and community protests in El Tule, Río San Juan and Rivas city.
Police broke up the protests. Over 20 people were injured - some said they were hit by police officers, local paper La Prensa reported - and more than 30 arrested. Most were later released.
According to lawyer Mónica López Baltodano, who is part of Grupo Cocibolca, a group composed of social and scientific organizations fighting the project, six were still in custody.
The Nicaragua canal and associated infrastructure, such as deepwater ports and a railway line, will require investment of up to US$50bn. The canal will compete for maritime traffic with the Panama Canal.
The preparatory work involves building roads and a wharf.