In photos: Nicaragua protests leave town hall in touristy Granada ablaze
The six-week old crisis in Nicaragua appears to have been the spark that set fire on Tuesday to the colonial town hall in Granada, a normally peaceful lake-side tourist destination about 30 miles south of the capital, Managua.
Two people were reporedly killed and 50 injured during clashes between students and pro-government forces, the first fatalities in the city since the uprising began.
One 14-year-old victim was identified as José Maltez, who died from a bullet wound, according to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh).
Residents quoted in local media reports say the confrontation in Granada began Tuesday morning when the National Police and pro-government Sandinista ‘turbas’ (youth mobs) attacked anti-government youths in a barrio on the outskirts of the city.
Hours later, unidentified persons burned a truck and the Granada City Hall in front of the central park of the town. Univision tried unsuccessfully to reach the Mayor of Granada, Julia Mena, a member of the ruling Sandinista Front.
Granada is famous for its cobblestone streets, cultural festivals and colonial buildings, including a yellow-painted cathedral and the town hall which stands on the central park and bears a coat of arms that was a gift from the more famous Moorish city in Spain.
It is the first time that the town hall was set on fire since 1856, when it was attacked by men under the orders of the Amercan filibuster, William Walker, who briefly ruled Nicaragua until he was thrown out by a Central American army.
Ever since Nicaragua’s protests began on April 18, tourists have virtually disappeared from its streets.
"It came out of the blue," said one American who lives in the city and runs a small tourist business. "It's such a shame, it's a beautiful city," he said, asking not to be named. "It had been relatively calm. Now the tourism is close to zero. People are closing their businesses, we don't know for how long." he added.
Tuesday's incident occurred in the midst of a 50-day-old political and social crisis that has engulfed the country, leaving almost no city spared. The death rose this week to more than 115, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH).
The anti-government protests began on April 18 over an aborted reform of the social security system and has since morphed into calls for the resignation of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.