France halts hike in fuel tax amid protests

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Kim Hjelm­gaard

Af­ter more than two weeks of protests that have led to blocked roads, torched cars, loot­ing and chaos in some of Paris' wealth­i­est neigh­bor­hoods, France's prime min­is­ter on Tues­day sus­pended a fuel-tax hike that trig­gered the demon­stra­tions.

Edouard Philippe tem­po­rar­ily called off plans to in­crease a diesel tax. The move, an­nounced live on TV, is aimed at eas­ing ten­sions af­ter more than 100 peo­ple were in­jured and 400 ar­rested in Paris over the week­end amid "Yel­low Jacket" protests.

At least three peo­ple have died since the un­rest started on Nov. 17 and the Arc de Tri­om­phe, one of France's most revered land­marks, was dam­aged last week­end

Philippe said the sus­pen­sion of a new tax on fuel would last for six months and that planned in­creases to gas and elec­tric­ity costs would also be tem­po­rary halted.

The civil un­rest is some of the most se­ri­ous in France since 1968, when mas­sive demon­stra­tions and wide-scale gen­eral strikes brought the na­tion's econ­omy to a halt.

French demon­stra­tors have been wear­ing the yel­low vests as a sym­bol of mo­torists' dis­con­tent with the gov­ern­ment's tax pol­icy. But the "Yel­low Jacket" move­ment has ex­panded far beyond fuel to in­clude de­mands that French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron al­ter his ap­proach to hous­ing, health, ed­u­ca­tion and the pub­lic purse.

The move­ment has at­tracted sup­port­ers from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, although it has res­onated par­tic­u­larly with France's work­ing class.

Since win­ning France's pres­i­dency last year, Macron has won praise for seek­ing to re­form France's la­bor laws but he has faced op­po­si­tion from pro­test­ers who feel that the changes fa­vor the wealthy. He re­cently slashed a long­stand­ing wealth tax.

"Yel­low Jacket" sup­port­ers claim that Macron's gov­ern­ment does not care about or­di­nary peo­ple or France's grow­ing so­cial in­equal­i­ties. Macron, 40, re­garded as po­lit­i­cally cen­trist, was elected on a pro-busi­ness plat­form.

"It's a first step, but we will not set­tle for a crumb," said Ben­jamin Cauchy, one of the lead­ers of the protests, ac­cord­ing to com­ments car­ried by the As­so­ci­ated Press.

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

A high school stu­dent clashes with a riot po­lice of­fi­cer dur­ing a demon­stra­tion against the French gov­ern­ment in Bordeaux.

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