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11 January 2011 | | | |

Bread and Roses

North of Africa shaken by demonstrations

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Thousands of people demonstrate in Tunisia and Algeria in response to the economic crisis that hits both countries, leading to a soaring of the food prices and reducing job opportunities for the youth.

The Tunisian government is once again responding to the crisis through repression, which is a daily problem for the country’s population, mainly made up by peasants and small businessmen. The official figures speak of less than twenty people dead in the riots, while the trade unions and civil society organizations estimate the number at nearly fifty.

The protests broke out last December 17 in solidarity with Mohamed Bouazizi, after he set himself on fire in the town of Sidi Bouzid, as a way to expose what was happening after the police seized the fruit and vegetables he was selling in the street. The 26 year-old man was a university graduate who, after having unsuccessfully looked for a job, became a street vendor to support himself and his family.

Despite the harsh repression, the riots have not stopped. They could put an end to Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s ruling government for the past 23 years. His government is notorious for its inequality and corruption. Ben Ali’s regime has earned Tunisia the name of “Police State”, according to diplomatic cables revealed by WikiLeaks.

Meanwhile, in Algeria, over three people died and nearly a thousand were arrested in the protests caused by the sudden increase in the food prices, which led to a 30% increase in the price of staples like flour, sugar and oil in the recent days.

Like in Tunisia, the demonstrators in Algeria are also demanding measures to reduce inequality and corruption, and to promote deeper changes in the economic policies than the ones proposed by the government, in order to moderate the rise in the prices.

Photo: http://www.enlucha.org/

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