This past Thursday in Managua, Nicaragua, Amnesty International launched a “global campaign” to demand the repeal of Law 840, which awards a concession for the construction of an Inter-Oceanic Canal to the Chinese company HKND Group. The initiative accompanied the presentation of a report prepared by this organization for the defense of human rights.
The report, entitled “Danger: Rights for sale”, asks Daniel Ortega’s government to “impose a moratorium on the implementation of all aspects of the work on the Project.”
According to the Amnesty recommendation, this moratorium should remain in place until “legal and procedural safeguards are in place that comply with human rights standards, including effective consultation of those who will be affected and prevent forced evictions.”
The report affirms that neither the government nor HKND realized a genuine “consultation” about the canal project with those potentially affected: some 120,000 people along the entire canal route.
Erika Guevara, director of Amnesty International for the Americas, presented the report that analyzes the “erosion of human rights” in the four years following the awarding of the concession. This period has been marked by uncertainty on the part of the promotors of the project valued at more than $50 billion dollars, and resistance on the part of the farmers and indigenous peoples whose movement has been met with repression from the armed forces.
“It’s a shadowy concession and it was approved quickly,” Guevara assured, referring to the streamlined approval of law 840 by the Ortega-controlled Parliament. “It highlights the violation of fundamental rights like that of citizens’ consultation, and it has already had disastrous effects on the communities.”
In Amnesty’s view, the project of an Inter-Oceanic Canal in Nicaragua “is an emblematic case in the Americas, because it reveals how powerful economic interests impose their will over the interest of the great majority.”
The Amnesty report is based on a process of direct consultation with more than 190 farmers and an analysis of the normative framework of the concession. “The failure to comply with human rights standards can be noted, especially, in that related to the process of expropriation,” the reports states. Law 840 establishes that Wang Jing – the businessman who owns the franchise – can expropriate whatever portion of the national territory he considers necessary for the project. The regulatory framework gives him the power to pay the assessed price, which is well below market rate. The affected parties would not be able to discuss the decision with the HKND Group.
Amnesty analyzes how the Project’s regulations give it supreme authority over the rest of the national legislation by giving the franchisee power to modify or repeal any disposition or legislation that opposes it. “A national legislation that finds itself totally subordinated to a trade agreement doesn’t auger well for human rights,” they assert.
Guevara stated that her team attempted repeatedly to meet with Comandante Daniel Ortega with the objective of exchanging information. “We requested an audience with President Ortega, but we were met with silence,” stated the Americas director of Amnesty International.
The report calls on the National Assembly to repeal law 840, including the Master Concession and Implementation Agreement and other accords related to the canal concession. In the view of this prominent organization for the defense of human rights with over seven million members around the world, Ortega’s legislative body should “ensure the establishment of a regulatory framework for the Project based on effective and genuine prior consultation that ensures respect for human rights and environmental integrity, and protection from forced evictions.”
Amnesty also issued recommendations to the security forces, the Police and the Army, who have repressed the marches of the rural residents protesting the Canal project. They ask them to respect the farmers’ movement’s right to free expression and to peaceful public demonstration. The movement has planned another protest march in La Fonseca, a community of the Nueva Guinea department on August 15.
The organization calls on the security forces to “abstain from realizing actions that constitute intimidation, harassment and reprisals against the human rights advocates and the community leaders who have expressed their concerns over the future impacts of the Project.” The report includes a summary of the repression that the farmers and their leaders, such as producer Francisca Ramirez, have been the victims of.
Amnesty’s Director for the Americas noted that if the concession should be invalidated, HNKD Group hasn’t lost anything. On the contrary, according to the same law 840, Nicaragua would have to pay reparations to the company. For this reason, the organization also appealed to Wang Jing, urging him in the report to “refrain from invoking or making use of indemnity or stability clauses in relation to any legal changes or measures introduced by the state that are aimed at ensuring respect for and protection of human rights in the context of the Project.”
Despite the fact that the Canal project seems to be dissolving (the projects aren’t being started, the investors are unknown, and there’s a lack of completed technical, environmental and viability studies), Law 840 establishes that magnate Wang Jing can cede, sell or pass on the national territory. In the face of this possibility – which, according to many, masks as a business deal the real reason that such a concession of the national sovereignty was awarded – Amnesty issues a warning call to third party states before investing or entering into treaties with HKND Group.
“Countries interested in investing in or providing services to the Project should assess the commitment of the Nicaraguan state to comply with international human rights standards and proactively initiate a dialogue with the Nicaraguan authorities to ensure that the Project complies with, and does not lead to violations of, Nicaragua’s international human rights obligations,” states the Amnesty report.
Bianca Jagger, the human rights advocate originally from Nicaragua, accompanied the presentation of the Amnesty International report in the name of the foundation that carries her name. With her were anti-canal movement leader Francisca Ramirez; Monica Lopez Baltodano, the rural movement’s legal advisor; and Vilma Nunez, president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights.
Jagger offered a recount of her opposition to the Nicaraguan counterrevolution and her support for the Sandinista revolution during the 80s, only to later regret the fact that Ortega is imitating the Somoza’s by “endangering the national sovereignty and selling off the natural resources.”
He is delivering over the country to a company we know nothing about,” insisted the well-known activist. “It’s sad that Ortega should destroy the lake [Cocibolca], the forests and any part of the country together with this project that won’t bring progress,” she said. “Has he no shame about selling off the resources of the farmers and the indigenous peoples?”
Jagger sustained that the persecution against the farmers is real. “They won’t leave them alone,” stated the human rights advocate.
Francisca Ramirez lamented the fact that her demand to repeal the canal law hasn’t been heeded by the Ortega government. “Our history has 100 years of bloodshed, and we’re falling into the same error,” alerted the rural leader.
Translated by Habana Times
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