Monday, May 20, 2019 | ePaper

Macron to halt fuel tax hikes in bid to calm fiery protests

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French President Emmanuel Macron appears determined not to roll back the unpopular fuel tax hikes.

AFP, Paris :
The French government plans to announce Tuesday the suspension of fuel tax increases slated for January in a bid to quell the fierce protests which have ballooned into the deepest crisis of Emmanuel Macron's presidency, sources said.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will also unveil other measures to help boost the living standards of low-income households, the government sources told AFP.
Pressure has been mounting after the grassroots "yellow vest" movement degenerated into fiery street clashes and vandalism in Paris over the weekend, leading to scores of injuries and arrests.
Rescinding the fuel tax hike was the main demand of the demonstrators, alongside a higher minimum wage and the return of a wealth tax on high-earners which was abolished last year.
But Philippe's office said he would not meet a "yellow vest" delegation Tuesday for "security reasons", after several said they had received threats from protesters contesting their claim to represent the grassroots movement.
Jacline Mouraud and Benjamin Cauchy, two of the leaders of the protests, told AFP they had received threats from hardline protesters who warned them against entering into negotiations with the government.
The crisis prompted Macron to postpone a planned visit to Belgrade due to the "problems" at home, his Serbian counterpart President Aleksandar Vucic announced on Monday.
Macron has not spoken publicly about Saturday's destruction in Paris since his return from a G20 summit in Argentina at the weekend.
His only message, published on his official Twitter account on Monday, has been about the need to help handicapped people and their carers, leading to more criticism that he is too aloof.
On Monday, he had lunch with police from a Paris barracks that was involved in trying to quell the riots.
The 40-year-old centrist was elected in May 2017 on a pro-business platform that included measures to incite companies to invest to create jobs.
Immediately after coming to power, he pushed through tax cuts for entrepreneurs and high-earners.
Those measures stirred anger among the "yellow vests" who have blocked highways around the country over the past two weeks.
Mass street protests have repeatedly forced previous French presidents into U-turns, but Macron has until now styled himself as an inflexible reformer capable of standing up to pressure.

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