French island rocked by cost-of-living protests

The unrest is the worst violence on La Reunion in nearly 30 years. (AFP)
Updated 21 November 2018
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French island rocked by cost-of-living protests

  • Five days of protests over rising living costs on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion
  • For several nights running, youths armed with petrol bombs and stones have clashed with police

SAINT-DENIS, Reunion: Thirty police officers have been injured in five days of protests over rising living costs on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, the government in Paris said Wednesday.
The “yellow vest” movement, which brought hundreds of thousands of people onto French streets last weekend to protest environmental taxes on fuel, has plunged La Reunion into its worst bout of violence in nearly 30 years.
Roads across the volcanic island of 850,000 people off southeast Africa remained blocked Wednesday by demonstrators, causing petrol stations to run low on fuel, and schools were closed for fear of violence.
The protest movement, triggered by a 23-percent rise in the price of diesel in the past year, has come to encompass broader grievances about the rising cost of essentials and a rollback in public services in small-town and rural France.
For several nights running, youths armed with petrol bombs and stones have clashed with police, leaving 30 officers injured so far, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said.
One officer lost his hand after a grenade accidentally went off in his car as it was being stoned by demonstrators, the authorities said.
There was no figure available for the number of injured among the demonstrators.
Across France, two people have died and over 500 have been injured since protesters began erecting barricades on roads across the country on Saturday to try to force the government to cancel planned tax hikes on fuel.
On the mainland, the protests had begun to fizzle Wednesday but in La Reunion the situation remained tense, despite the government agreeing to freeze anti-pollution taxes on fuel on the island for three years.
Griveaux blamed the violence on “gangs of youths” using the cover of the protests to “loot, sack and destroy” property and announced that police reinforcements were being sent from Paris.
In mainland France, businesses are also feeling the pinch after five days of unrest.
A PSA Peugeot-Citroen factory in the eastern French town of Sochaux suspended production Wednesday because supply trucks carrying parts from Spain had been unable to get past one of the few remaining roadblocks.
Macron, who has vowed to stay his course despite plummeting poll ratings, on Wednesday threatened “severe” action against protesters who breach the peace, endanger motorists’ lives or intimidate opponents.


Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

Updated 26 June 2019
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Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

  • But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues
  • The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reduce heightened trade tension with India on Wednesday, promising a renewed focus on negotiating improved trade and investment ties between the two nations.
But Pompeo, on a visit to India, gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues ranging from access to Indian markets for leading American companies to New Delhi’s demands for foreign firms to store Indian data in the country, and exports of steel and aluminum to the United States.
The two nations are “friends who can help each other all around the world,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after they met.
The current differences were expressed “in the spirit of friendship,” he added.
The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance.
In particular, the sudden introduction of new e-commerce rules for foreign investors in February angered the Americans because it showed New Delhi was prepared to move the goalposts to hurt two of the largest US companies, discount retailer Walmart, and Amazon.com Inc.
Walmart last year invested $16 billion to buy control of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart.
Just days before Pompeo’s visit, India slapped higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi.
Jaishankar, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, played down the spat on Wednesday.
“If you trade with someone and they are your biggest trading partner, it is impossible you don’t have trade issues,” he said.
India’s ties with Russia and Iran, both now subject to US sanctions, are also a sore point.
US pressure has led India to stop buying oil from Iran, a top energy supplier. The United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
The missile deal and Iranian oil were both discussed during their meeting, Jaishankar and Pompeo said, but mentioned no resolution of either at the news conference.
Earlier, Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks at his official residence in the capital, New Delhi, and they exchanged handshakes in images broadcast on television.
“The Prime Minister expressed his strong commitment to achieve the full potential of bilateral relations in trade and economy, energy, defense, counterterrorism and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
Pompeo is expected to round off the trip with a policy speech hosted by the US embassy, before departing on Thursday for a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Japan.