Paris yields to pressure on fuel price hikes
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