Central America: Dozens injured in clashes between student protesters and riot police
Dozens injured in clashes between student protesters and riot police; Nicaraguan lawmakers approve US$30bn canal bill; Costa Rica rejects CCJ ruling over road construction.
Dozens injured in clashes between student protesters and riot police
More than 40 were injured Monday during clashes between riot police and students protesting against education reform in the south of Guatemala City.
Currently studying to become primary school teachers, the students oppose government measures which could lengthen their university course from three to five years.
Protests against the measure began more than two months ago, and still no agreement has been reached.
During the protests, students attempted to take hostage the Minister of Education Cynthia del Águila, which police say was the cause for the eruption of the clashes.
The minister was admitted to the emergency room of a private hospital after being evacuated by security forces, following an alleged panic attack as well as eye irritation and respiratory complications due to tear gas.
The Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla, also present at the scene commanding anti-riot police, suffered a wound to his right arm from a blunt object thrown by protesters.
The injured also included three local reporters.
President Otto Pérez Molina has called a meeting to end the protests.
Nicaraguan lawmakers approve US$30bn canal bill
Also this week, Nicaragua’s ‘unrealisable pipe dream’ took one step further towards fulfillment, as on Tuesday 85 of the country’s 91 lawmakers approved Daniel Ortega’s project of creating a US$30bi alternative to the Panama Canal.
The new law provides for the establishment of a legal framework for the proposed 200 km canal to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which Ortega says ‘will lift the country out of poverty’.
The bill also includes the creation of a Grand Canal Authority, charged with managing the canal’s construction and funding.
Feasibility studies are estimated at US$350m, with construction costs possibly hitting the US$30bi threshold. The government is proposing to raise funds through a joint public-private partnership, with the state maintaining a 51 percent stake.
Project leader and former Sandinista commander Edén Pastora said Nicaragua’s canal would surpass its Panamanian counterpart in size and depth.
Six countries have been said to be interested in backing the project – including Brazil, China, Japan and Russia.
Costa Rica rejects CCJ ruling over road construction
In other news, the Central America Court of Justice (CCJ) ordered Monday the suspension of Costa Rica’s construction of a 160 km road on the south bank of the Río San Juan. The road borders Nicaragua, in an area whose sovereignty has been under dispute by both nations.
The CCJ argues that the road construction constitutes a ‘high-risk project’ and an ‘environmental hazard’ which threatens the local ecosystem. However, the court did not determine an estimated cost of damages ‘for lack of evidence’.
Costa Rica’s government rejected the ruling – as it does not recognize the court’s authority –, with President Laura Chinchilla and Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo stating that the decision will not be complied with.
San José will further study the possibility of waiving the Central American Integration System (SICA), as long as Nicaragua enjoys the pro tempore presidency of that institution. Nicaragua’s presidency began last Friday.
‘We have every right to doubt the court’s objectivity, because it is located in Nicaragua and its chair is a Nicaraguan,’ Chinchilla said.