Foes of Nicaragua canal say police trying to disrupt protest

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) " Opponents of a Chinese company's planned interoceanic canal across Nicaragua charged that police have set up roadblocks and are harassing demonstrators heading to a Wednesday protest in the nation's capital.

The National Council in Defense of the Land, Lake and Sovereignty said Tuesday that police had threatened drivers, seized vehicles and roughed up opponents.

Canal spokesman Telemaco Talavera denied that. "There is no police harassment of farmers," he told local media. "If they are marching, it is because they believe there will be a canal. They have the right to dissent."

Sceptics have doubted whether the canal concession, granted in 2014 to a Chinese company, will ever be built. It has barely broken ground.

Critics say the canal proposal threatens to displace rural communities and damage the environment. The 171-mile (276-kilometer) waterway between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean is to pass through Lake Nicaragua. About 7,000 families living along the route face displacement.

The government says the $50 billion canal will create 50,000 jobs.

The march Wednesday would be the fifth large demonstration against the canal.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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