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Tunisia activists planning 'red vest' protests over sagging economy

By Clyde Hughes
Tunisia activists planning 'red vest' protests over sagging economy
"Yellow vest" French protesters set fire to the statue of Marianne in Paris, France, on December 8 as a revolt against a planned fuel tax increase. Photo by Eco Clement/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Activists in Tunisia are planning a "red vest" movement to protest the nation's poor economic conditions -- taking inspiration from the "yellow vest" demonstrators in France.

Since 2011, the Tunisian economy has been hit hard by record inflation, poverty and unemployment since autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali lost power in a revolution. A general strike has been called for Jan. 17, the eighth anniversary of the revolution.

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Movement founder Riyad Jarad is calling for more aggressive development efforts, increased job opportunities, better public education and health services, and upgraded living standards.

"The initiative fundamentally makes economic and social demands; it is intended to represent the poor and marginalized," Jarad said in a report by Anadolu Agency Friday.

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Another organizer, Naguib al-Dereidi, said the movement has established 53 local coordination offices and nine regional posts and is gaining support. The group said its two largest parties lost support to independent candidates in the latest municipal elections, Middle East Eye reported.

The "red vests" say Borhan Al-Eilani, one of its founders, has been arrested leading up to the protests.

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The group said it took inspiration from France's "yellow vest" protests, which took its name after the safety garments French motorists are required to have in their vehicles in case of emergency. Those protests were sparked by a proposed fuel tax increase that was canceled as a result of the demonstrations.

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The protests turned into major civil disruptions and morphed into a rallying cry against high living costs and the Macron administration, which is viewed by some as out of touch with citizens. The movement led to some looting and rioting in Paris, Bordeaux, Toulouse and other cities. Four people died amid the revolt.

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