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French government to ‘suspend’ fuel tax hike

"It is first step, but we will not settle for crumb," said Benjamin Cauchy, one of leaders of protests

The French government is preparing to suspend fuel tax increases set in January, in a bid to end violent “Yellow Vest” protests against the decision, a government source said on Tuesday.

Le Monde and France Info said the planned increase will be suspended for several months. 

“It is a first step, but we will not settle for a crumb,” said Benjamin Cauchy, one of the leaders of the protests.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right party National Rally (formerly the National Front), tweeted: “A moratorium on taxes is being considered. But a moratorium is only a postponement.”  

Republican Senator Bruno Retailleau described the moratorium as a reprieve and “absolutely inadequate.” He said the French people called for “a cancellation.” 

Meanwhile, the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office said it has started an investigation into “violence by persons holding public authority” after a video was broadcast on social networks showing a man apparently being beaten up by eight police officers on Saturday. 

Over the weekend, protesters set fire to dozens of cars and several storefronts along the Champs Elysees. The Arc de Triomphe was sprayed with graffiti.

French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the protests and vowed a tough response.

“I will never accept violence,” Macron said during the G20 summit in Argentina. “No cause justifies that authorities are attacked, that businesses are plundered, that passers-by or journalists are threatened or that the Arc de Triomphe is defiled.”

The protests descended into the worst urban violence France has seen in a decade. Police used water cannons to quash the unrest. 

Representatives of the “Yellow Vest” movement said on Monday that they would not attend proposed talks with the French PM Édouard Philippe for “security reasons.”   

Philippe cancelled a planned trip to the COP24 climate conference in Poland on Sunday to meet with Macron over the unrest. He is expected to announce the fuel tax suspension in a televised speech following a meeting with lawmakers in the ruling Republic on the Move party.

The planned tax would have raised gasoline prices by 4 per litre. Gasoline currently costs about 1.42 per litre in Paris, slightly higher than diesel. 

Topics: france Fuel tax

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