AP PHOTOS: Nicaragua protesters target 1st lady’s costly art

May 15, 2018

In this May 4, 2018 photo, street vendors wait for clients backdropped by a row of metal sculptures known as "Trees of Life," in Managua, Nicaragua. The multicolored sculptures which were erected at the initiative of Nicaragua's first lady and Vice President Rosario Murrillo. Some have penned them derogatively as "Chayo Palos", or Chayo Poles, referencing Murillo's nickname. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — When protests against a change to Nicaragua’s social security system turned confrontational last month, the favorite targets of the more destructive demonstrators were the so-called “Trees of Life” that line some of Managua’s main thoroughfares.

The huge steel trees in an array of bright colors are lighted at night by thousands of tiny bulbs. They were erected at the initiative of Nicaragua’s first lady and current vice president, Rosario Murrillo. Some locals refer to them as “Chayo poles” because the first lady’s nickname is “Chayo.”

There were more than 130 in Managua before the protests felled at least eight of them. Others were burned or otherwise defaced with anti-government graffiti.

At the Jean Paul Genie traffic circle, a tree of life was brought down and later replaced with a memorial to the dozens of victims of the government’s crackdown on protesters. Demonstrators placed flowers and candles in what remained of the sculpture’s jagged base and planted real trees and shrubs in the packed earth surrounding it.

The local La Prensa newspaper investigated the installations in 2015 and reported that each cost $25,000. It said it cost more than $1 million just to power their lights that year alone, though some newer versions reportedly consume less power.

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