The partially restored colonial city was the country’s leading urban tourist attraction.
HAVANA TIMES – Terror and violence shook the city of Granada on Tuesday, the main colonial and leading tourist city of Nicaragua, where alleged paramilitaries attacked anti-government protesters, one of whom died, and burned City Hall, reported the Red Cross and the Government, reported dpa news.
The Red Cross confirmed the death of a 14-year-old teenager who was shot in the thorax when the attackers fired on a barricade of young government opponents in the Arroyo Carita neighborhood of Granada, 45 kilometers southeast of Managua.
Hours later, unidentified persons burned a truck and the Granada City Hall in front of the central park of the town. The mayor of Granada, Julia Mena, has not been seen in the city
The residents of Arroyo Carita have been supporting the “tranques” (street barricades) of protesters against the government of Daniel Ortega at one of the entrances to the city, noted “La Prensa” newspaper.
Wilder Morales, parish priest of the Xalteva neighborhood, declared that the attack on the barricade was carried out by armed persons apparently hired by the Government.
“We sounded the bells of Cathedral and of the La Merced and Xalteva parishes because the gangs tried to loot the market. Stores are closed and there are only people in the banks, old people withdrawing their pensions,” said Morales.
The government website, “El 19 Digital,” in a four-line news story, said the City Hall was destroyed by “criminal groups paid by the right,” who also “attacked the merchants and the National Police.”
The Police did not inform on the events. They claim they do not have paramilitary or para-police forces under their command.
Built in 1524 by the Spanish conquistadors at the foot of the Mombacho volcano, Granada is one of the country’s top tourist attractions. It is located on the shores of the Lake of Nicaragua, which has an island with two volcanoes (Ometepe) and more than 400 islets.
Granada is located very close to the city of Masaya, where 10 people died and another 62 were injured over the weekend in two days of clashes between police, paramilitaries and demonstrators, according to the non-governmental Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH).
Tourism, the main source of income for Granada and a leader in the country, has plummeted since the protests against the government began in mid-April.
Media reports indicated that more civilians have joined the protests and have raised “barricades” that prevent communication by land between Managua and the main provinces located to the south and southeast: Carazo, Granada and Rivas, which communicate the country with Costa Rica and Panama.
Three university students (two women and one male) who were kidnapped on Monday night by alleged police officers reported being beaten, tortured and left naked by their captors.
One of those affected, 20, said she was forced to strip naked in front of her assailants, while a 21-year-old man said he was beaten and threatened with death. The young woman identified the aggressors as “plainclothes police or paramilitaries who carried shotguns and pistols.”
Meanwhile, in Brussels, the European Union (EU) issued a statement on Tuesday in which it described as “unacceptable” the excessive violence used by police and other uncontrolled forces in Nicaragua, and urged the Government of Daniel Ortega to “disband the violent groups.”
“The continued violence in the country and the excessive use of force by the police and uncontrolled groups are unacceptable, these attacks violate the basic rights of citizens and make the conditions for a peaceful dialogue more difficult,” said the EU.
“The government must impose parameters of internationally accepted behavior and practice on police forces and disband the violent groups,” added the European Union.
It also urged an “internationally supervised investigation of these acts of violence”, as agreed between the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) and the Government of Daniel Ortega in recent days.
“All the recommendations of the IACHR should be put into practice and the relevant bodies of the UN must receive access to the country” (thus far denied), the statement underscored.
The crisis in Nicaragua began with a peaceful student demonstration in rejection of a Social Security reform that affected thousands of workers and retirees, but it escalated quickly due to the violent attacks of the riot police and shock forces against unarmed civilians.
Human rights groups document that over a hundred persons have died thus far and over a thousand injured, many seriously.