MANAGUA (Reuters) - Eleven people have been injured in Nicaragua after clashes broke out between police and protesters who oppose the construction of a massive inter-oceanic canal project in the Central American country, federal police and demonstration leaders said on Wednesday.

A gigantic canal project extending 174 miles (280 km) from the Caribbean to the Pacific has been met with disapproval by local residents and environmentalists who warn the project will cause damage to Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America.

Demonstrators had planned to converge on the capital of Managua on Wednesday afternoon, but canceled the gathering after clashes broke out with riot police the day before in Nueva Guinea, a municipality about 186 miles (300 km) from the capital.

"We decided not to go on with it because we want to show that we love peace, that we are not violent," said Francisca Ramirez, a leader of the movement that opposes the expropriation of land for the canal, saying five protesters had been hurt.

Francisco Diaz, deputy director of the federal police, said riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets against a group of "vandals" who attacked them with sticks and machetes on Tuesday, leaving six policemen injured.

The "anti-canal" movement said it will continue its fight against the mega-project, which is currently being studied for its feasibility.

(Reporting by Ivan Castro; Writing by Natalie Schachar; Editing by Sandra Maler)