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Ortega pledges to make Nicaragua's canal ‘a reality’

NICARAGUAN President Daniel Ortega promised to make the country’s controversial canal development “a reality” yesterday.

He explained that the new waterway would allow growth and improve the “economic condition of all families.”

Mr Ortega was speaking at a ceremony in the capital Managua to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the founding of Nicaragua’s naval force.

He said that the canal would be a “source of resources” enabling economic development.

The Sandinista leader said that historically the government has a “commitment to make the Interoceanic Canal through Nicaragua a reality.” 

Development of the canal has proved controversial, with critics warning of potential environmental damage.

There have been claims that its construction would cut through farmland and lead to 30,000 people being displaced.

Much of the resistance has, however, allegedly been funded by organisations outside Nicaragua, many of whom support the ousting of the Sandinista government.

Washington has long feared that development of the canal would weaken its influence in Central America and strengthen its rival China.

The Anti-Canal Movement is backed by centre-right politician Monica Baltodano.

She is a former member of the National Assembly for the opposition Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS) and is closely associated with the former presidential challenger Fabio Gadea.

Anti-Canal Movement militants were accused of supporting the attempted coup against Mr Ortega and maintaining roadblocks in El Morrito under the leadership of right-wing farmer Medardo Mairena in July last year.

The violence led to the massacre of four police officers and a schoolteacher, which was followed by an alleged cover-up to hide the opposition role in the killings.

Nicaragua’s government insists that the 173-mile canal, which would cut across the country and through Lake Nicaragua, is needed to alleviate poverty and allow for economic growth and development to benefit “all families.”

It says its construction — supported by trade unions affiliated to the National Workers’ Front (FNT) — would protect the environment both globally and nationally.

Mr Ortega said:  “We are not talking about something we are inventing, we are not talking about something a project that comes to affect or damage [Nicaragua], rather it comes to strengthen global trade, to give Nicaragua a source of resources that would allow it to give greater development and growth to Nicaragua and therefore improve the economic conditions of all Nicaraguan families.”

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