France mulls wealth tax changes as protests intensify

Marco Green
December 5, 2018

Initially backed by people in small towns and rural France where most get around by vehicle, the protests snowballed into a wider movement against Macron's perceived bias in favour of the elite and well-off city dwellers.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced Tuesday rollbacks on fuel taxes and electricity price increases in a rare televised address after France was rocked by intense street clashes and vandalism in Paris over the weekend.

"No tax merits putting the unity of the nation in danger", he said. Prime Minister, is not a postponement.

"We didn't want a suspension, we want the past increase in the tax on fuels to be canceled immediately", Benjamin Cauchy, the organizer of the Yellow Vests movement, told BFM TV.

Workers who live in rural areas far from city centers were the worst-affected by the fuel taxes, as they rely on their cars far more than city dwellers, bolstering protesters' complaints that Macron represents those wealthy enough to live in Paris and other large cities.

"This violence must end", Philippe said.

President Emanuel Macron announced the tax increases last month.

A joint statement from the CGT and FO unions said: "This is about defending real wages, just like the Gilets Jaunes (yellow vests)".

Protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, clash with riot police on the Champs-Elysee in Paris, Nov. 24, 2018.

The demonstrations started on November 17 in Paris.

In addition to their dissatisfaction with the government's offer regarding the price hikes, the yellow vest protesters have widened the scope of their demonstrations and demands in recent days.

Paris Saint-Germain's home Ligue 1 football match against Montpellier on Saturday has already been called off, as has an electro music festival in the city centre. Police used tear gas to control crowds.

The French government is hoping to stave off another day of running riots and burning cars like on Saturday, when more than 400 people were arrested in the capital.

The concessions, coming after an earlier 500-million-euro relief package for poorer households, mark the first time 40-year-old Macron has given ground in the face of public opposition. He has promised to reform France's economy and increase economic growth.

However, his policies have angered many French citizens who say he does not care about most of the people. The yellow vest protesters have called him "president of the rich".

The most violent protests took place last weekend while Macron attended the G-20 (Group of 20) meetings in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Eventually, if no agreement is reached, there will likely be "yellow jackets" in the streets of Paris once more, climate agreement or not.

After it was clear that Macron had been defeated by the strong-arming of the violent protests, Trump tweeted that he was pleased with the outcome. "I'm calling this government to resign", Valette said.

Mario Ritter adapted stories from VOA News and Reuters for this VOA Learning English report. George Grow was the editor.

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