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France Suspends Fuel Tax Increase That Spurred Violent Protests

5 diciembre, 2018
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“There’s no guarantee it won’t be back in six months,” he said of the gas tax. “There will be more demonstrations. We remain mobilized.”

 

 

Adam Nossiter

c.2018 New York Times News Service

 

PARIS — In a major concession by President Emmanuel Macron, France will suspend for six months a tax increase on gasoline and diesel fuel that had been slated for January, in an attempt to quell weeks of protests and rioting by the Yellow Vests movement.

 

Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced the move on Tuesday after briefing lawmakers in a closed-door meeting in Parliament.

 

“No tax warrants putting the unity of the nation in danger,” Philippe said.

 

For the past three weeks, the Yellow Vests protest movement has swept across France, clashing with police and wreaking havoc in Paris and other major cities, defacing famed monuments such as the Arc de Triomphe.

 

The projected gas tax increase was equivalent to only a few cents a gallon, but it proved to be a tipping point in a country that already has some of the highest taxes in Europe, sending tens of thousands of protesters into the streets. Many came from small villages and towns where living standards are declining in an era of stagnant salaries.

 

It was not immediately clear whether the government’s announcement, which also delayed new vehicle inspection measures and increases in gas and electricity rates, would be enough to calm the demonstrations. Initial reaction from spokesmen for Yellow Vest protesters was negative.

 

“We’re not satisfied because the French have been struggling for years now,” Benjamin Cauchy, one of the spokesmen, said on BFM TV, a television news channel. “This could have been done weeks ago, and we would have avoided all these problems. Our demands are much bigger than this moratorium. They’ve got to stop hitting the wallets of the small earners. We want a better distribution of wealth, salary increases. It’s about the whole baguette, not just the crumbs.”

 

Lionel Cucchi, a spokesman in Marseille, told BFM TV that protesters were prepared to continue.

 

“There’s no guarantee it won’t be back in six months,” he said of the gas tax. “There will be more demonstrations. We remain mobilized.”

 

The tax increase was one in a series of increments meant in part to help finance the transition to cleaner energy.

 

But it set off the Yellow Vests movement — named after the high-visibility jackets that all drivers must have — that amounted to the biggest challenge to Macron’s presidency since he was elected in 2017.

 

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