France halts fuel price hike in bid to subdue violent protests

By Clyde Hughes   |   Dec. 4, 2018 at 7:27 AM
French riot police clash with protesters wearing yellow vests in Paris Saturday. Photo by Yoa Valat/EPA-EFE

Dec. 4 (UPI) -- France announced Tuesday it's scrapping the plan to hike fuel prices that helped set off the greatest civil disturbance Paris has seen in 50 years, at least temporarily.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe called off plans for the increase in diesel tax, which was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. Instead, the increase will be put off for at least several months. Phillippe also said planned rate hikes for gas and electricity will also be suspended.

The prime minister's announcement is aimed at subduing the violent protests that have taken hold since Nov. 17. The riots have killed four people, caused substantial damage in Paris and led to the arrests of 400 people -- most of whom are part of the "yellow vest" opposition, a reference to the colored garment drivers keep in their vehicles for emergency situations.

Over the last two weeks, the protests have expanded to become a rebellion toward the administration of President Emmanuel Macron.

According to France's oil industry federation, the cost of diesel fuel has increased this year from $1.41 to $1.69 per liter, a 16 percent rise.

Philippe had skipped the U.N. climate change summit in Poland to deal with the ongoing protests, and planned to meet with rebellion organizers Tuesday. Those plans fell through when two of the protest leaders Benjamin Cauchy and Jacqueline Moreau, dropped out.

Paramedics and high school students joined in the protests Monday, which have caused widespread damage and disruptions across the nation. Graffiti and vandalism have occurred around Paris, including the famous Arc de Triomphe.

Some students demonstrated at their schools, setting fire to garbage cans and calling for Macron's resignation. Firefighters had to put out almost 190 fires last weekend.

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