Paris yields to pres­sure on fuel price hikes

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD -

PARIS — The French gov­ern­ment, un­der pres­sure from weeks of “yel­low vest” protests over ris­ing liv­ing costs, has scrapped all planned fuel tax hikes for 2019 and ap­pealed for calm.

An in­crease sched­uled for Jan 1 was “scrapped for the year 2019” in its en­tirety, En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Fran­cois de Rugy an­nounced on BFM TV, in an about-turn for the gov­ern­ment.

The pres­i­dency, mean­while, warned of pos­si­ble vi­o­lence dur­ing a new round of protests planned for Satur­day in Paris and else­where in the coun­try.

“We have rea­sons to fear ma­jor vi­o­lence,” a source in the El­y­see Palace said amid calls for fresh mo­bi­liza­tion of the “yel­low vests” move­ment al­ready linked to four deaths and hun­dreds of in­juries in of­ten vi­o­lent de­mon­stra­tions.

The protests be­gan on Nov 17 to op­pose ris­ing fuel taxes, but have bal­looned into a broad chal­lenge to French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron’s per­ceived pro-busi­ness agenda and com­plaints that he is out of touch with the strug­gles of or­di­nary peo­ple.

Demon­stra­tors have blocked roads na­tion­wide, play­ing havoc with traf­fic in the busy run-up to Christ­mas.

On Satur­day, ri­ot­ers ran amok in the cap­i­tal, torch­ing nearly 200 cars, smash­ing shop win­dows, and van­dal­iz­ing the Arc de Tri­om­phe.

Macron and his gov­ern­ment ap­pealed for calm on Wed­nes­day, and sig­naled they were ready to make fur­ther con­ces­sions to avoid more vi­o­lence. “The mo­ment that we are liv­ing through is not about po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion, it’s about the repub­lic,” gov­ern­ment spokesman Ben­jamin Griveaux said af­ter a meet­ing where he said Macron urged de­ci­sion-mak­ers to is­sue “a clear and ex­plicit call to calm”.

How­ever, far-right leader Marine Le Pen and hard-left fire­brand Jean-Luc Me­len­chon have been vo­cal in back­ing the demon­stra­tors’ de­mands.

The mo­ment that we are liv­ing through is not about po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion, it’s about the repub­lic.” Ben­jamin Griveaux, gov­ern­ment spokesman

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