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Greek farmers threaten to escalate austerity protests

Protesting planned pension cuts, Greek farmers have blocked key roads and border crossings with their tractors for weeks. Now they're threatening to stage a blockade of the government district in downtown Athens. Traveling by road to Greece's Peloponnes peninsula can be trying these days. Farmers have blocked the bridge on the Corinth canal with tractors for the past 18 days, forcing drivers to detour on rarely used country roads. Only ambulances and pregnant women are granted passage; trucks piled high with goods must turn back or take the rural route. On Tuesday, tractors also closed off the four-lane highway at Tempi Valley, near Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city. The farmers plan to continue their protest until the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras deals with their demands, which include canceling planned pension cuts, abolishing a new tax on wine and tsipouro brandy, and granting tax-free diesel for farmers - as well as a 12,000-euro ($13,400) tax exemption per year. Roadblocks at various checkpoints along Greece's border with Bulgaria have made international headlines. Witnesses report that trucks were backed up for 25 kilometers (15 miles) on the Greek side on Friday. Bulgarian shipping companies reported losing millions of euros. In the early morning hours of Tuesday, several truck drivers from Bulgaria tried to break through the blockade from the Greek side of the border. "Five trucks barged through the crowds," a farmer told Greece's Skai TV broadcaster. "They broke through the toll gate and almost seriously injured our colleagues." Witnesses later said that four trucks had managed to break through the roadblock but police managed to deter the fifth driver. Powerful lobby Agriculture contributes 4.5 percent to Greece's gross domestic product - not a huge amount, but significantly more than the EU average of 2.9 percent. The Greek farmers' lobby is traditionally strong. Government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili repeatedly mentioned an alleged "destabilization plan" that includes conservative unionists - presumably a reference to the fact that farmers are seen as loyal supporters of Greece's New Democracy opposition party. The economic analyst Panagiotis Bousbourellis said the main reason for the farmers' uprising lay less in lobbying and more in the devastating consequences of the upcoming pension cuts. "In 2015, the farmers paid more than 400 million euros into the pension system - and from now on, they're expected to pay three times as much," Bousbourellis told DW. "That won't work, in particular because 600,000 people can't even pay their social security contributions anymore." Ever since capital transactions controls were introduced in June, the number of insurance payments made on time dropped by a third, Bousbourellis said. At the same time, the government is determined to raise social security contributions as far as possible in order to avoid cutting pensions. "It's a plan that doesn't add up," he warned. Undeterred, many farmers plan to continue their protest with a mass demonstration Friday in downtown Athens. It remains to be seen whether they will actually ride their tractors all the way to parliament. Government spokeswoman Gerovasili made it clear that tractors are not allowed in downtown Athens, adding that the police would react accordingly. Details of the operation aren't expected until the last minute: Greeks don't usually announce or apply for permission for public gatherings far in advance. The farmers' associations aren't unanimously convinced of the wisdom of converging on the capital. The northern farmers would prefer to continue their roadblocks at border crossings and tollbooths over the weekend, but farmers from the south and west of the country have opted to move on Athens. "I'm uneasy," the analyst Bousbourellis said. "I don't expect tractors to show up, but I'm worried about how the government and the police will react to an explosive protest."

Protesting planned pension cuts, Greek farmers have blocked key roads and border crossings with their tractors for weeks. Now they’re threatening to stage a blockade of the government district in downtown Athens. Traveling by road to Greece’s Peloponnes peninsula can be trying these days. Farmers have blocked the bridge on the Corinth canal with tractors for the past 18 days, ... Read More »

Tunisia PM urges patience amid crisis

Following a wave of increasingly volatile protests over the country's flagging economy, Tunisia's leader has asked for more time. Prime Minister Essid has promised democracy will prevail no matter what. Prime Minister Habib Essid begged for "patience" from the Tunisian people on Saturday after a string of sometimes violent protests against the rampant unemployment plaguing the country. Emerging from a crisis cabinet meeting, Essid promised his administration was taking the issue very seriously, but warned that changes could not be implemented overnight. Tunisia "is in danger despite the positive things which we have accomplished, particularly the transition toward democracy", said Essid, pleading with the public to "understand that there are difficulties." "Solutions exist but some patience and optimism are needed," he added. He declined to mention any concrete plans to tackle joblessness. Worst crisis since the revolution A week of intense protesting touched off in the city of Kasserine on January 16 when a young unemployed man, Ridha Yahyaoui, despairing of his situation climbed a utility pole near the governor's office and electrocuted himself. Across the country, 15 percent of citizens are out of work, the rate is even higher among university graduates at 32 percent. After clashes broke out between police and protestors, which resulted in the death of one policeman in the town of Feriana on Wednesday, the government imposed a nationwide curfew . On Saturday, Essid said the curfew would remain in place for security reasons until further notice. Originally the poster child for success stories arising out of the 2011 "Arab Spring," Tunisia - which was able to swiftly remove dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and transition to democracy - has struggled economically in the aftermath. High-profile terrorist attacks against tourists, whose visits to the country's Mediterranean resorts account for a good deal of the Tunisian economy, have worsened financial woes.

Following a wave of increasingly volatile protests over the country’s flagging economy, Tunisia’s leader has asked for more time. Prime Minister Essid has promised democracy will prevail no matter what. Prime Minister Habib Essid begged for “patience” from the Tunisian people on Saturday after a string of sometimes violent protests against the rampant unemployment plaguing the country. Emerging from a ... Read More »

Moldovan protesters call on government to resign

Protesters in the ex-Soviet country have called for the government to resign over the disappearance of $1.5 billion from banks. The demonstrations were organized by two pro-Russian parties in the nation's capital. More than 20,000 protesters on Sunday marched through the streets of the capital Chisinau demanding the resignation of Moldova's pro-European government. Pro-Russian parties organized the demonstration in a bid to unseat the government led by Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet after it was discovered that over $1.5 billion disappeared from three Moldovan banks prior to 2014's parliamentary elections. The state-owned Savings Bank, Social Bank and Unibank were placed under the control of the National Bank of Moldova, which covered the losses through state cash reserves, prompting a crisis of confidence among many Moldovans left to foot the bill. Chanting "down with the thieves," the protesters also called on leaders of a number of state institutions to step down, including the heads of the central bank, attorney general's office and the country's anti-corruption commission. Police surrounded the buildings of Moldova's institutions, including parliament, in response to the mass demonstrations. The latest demonstrations come amid a two-week visit by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation, during which the global financial institution said a new loan was unlikely to materialize. Earlier this month, Moldova's central bank governor resigned in response to previous protests. The former Soviet nation is considered one of Europe's poorest countries.

Protesters in the ex-Soviet country have called for the government to resign over the disappearance of $1.5 billion from banks. The demonstrations were organized by two pro-Russian parties in the nation’s capital. More than 20,000 protesters on Sunday marched through the streets of the capital Chisinau demanding the resignation of Moldova’s pro-European government. Pro-Russian parties organized the demonstration in a ... Read More »

Dozens arrested following deadly riots in Ukraine capital

One police officer has been killed and more than 100 others injured amid clashes with protesters in Kyiv. The unrest comes after lawmakers voted on a constitutional amendment to help end the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The police officer was killed in front of Ukraine's parliament buildings on Monday following an explosion caused by a grenade thrown from the crowd of protesters. The National Guard member has been identified by the country's interior ministry as a 24-year-old conscript. The person responsible for throwing the grenade was reportedly arrested, along with around 30 other demonstrators. "Investigation and punishment will be unavoidable," Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said, calling the clashes an "anti-Ukrainian war." Avakov said 122 people were hospitalized as a result of the clashes, most of whom were police officers. Also among the injured were a number of Ukrainian journalists and two French reporters. Antoine Delaunay, a French freelance photographer, wrote on Twitter that he "took a rock" to his face during the demonstration. No casualties were initially reported among the protesters which included some 100 activists - many of them members of a Ukrainian nationalist party known as Svoboda. 'Decentralization' bill Demonstrations broke out in the Ukrainian capital on Monday after 265 of Ukraine's 450-seat parliament - also known as the Verkhovna Rada - approved constitutional changes in a preliminary vote. The controversial "decentralization" bill proposed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko would grant greater autonomy to the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which are mostly controlled by pro-Russian separatists. The amendment is part of Kyiv's side of the bargain to implement February's Minsk peace accord which called for Kyiv to implement further federalized powers by the end of this year. The proposed legislation has been condemned by critics, however, as "anti-Ukrainian" and "pro-Vladimir Putin." Monday's violence was the worst unrest seen in Kyiv since a deadly popular uprising starting in the winter of 2013, which ultimately ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych, sparking an insurgency of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. More than 6,800 people have been killed since the conflict broke out last March.

One police officer has been killed and more than 100 others injured amid clashes with protesters in Kyiv. The unrest comes after lawmakers voted on a constitutional amendment to help end the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The police officer was killed in front of Ukraine’s parliament buildings on Monday following an explosion caused by a grenade thrown from the crowd ... Read More »

Anti-government rallies sweep Brazil

Demonstrators have taken to the streets in Brazil, kicking off nationwide rallies expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people. Many are calling for President Dilma Rousseff to step down. The demonstrations in the capital Brasilia started on Sunday with at least 5,000 people gathering in the city center. Many were wearing the Brazilian national football team colors and carrying placards calling "Dilma out" and "No to corruption." The protests were called mostly via social media by a variety of opposition groups. They are expected to be a key indicator of public support for calls from some in Congress for President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment. More than 200 towns and cities across Brazil are expected to participate in the protests, including the metropolis Sao Paulo and the 2016 Olympic host city Rio de Janeiro, where an Olympic cycling test event had to be rerouted because of the demonstrations. 'Democratic normality' The Brasilian government stated that it observed the protests with "respect," regarding them as a symbol of "democratic normality." During Dilma Rousseff's second term in office, the Brazilian economy slid into recession and inflation rose. Furthermore, the country was shaken by a major corruption scandal involving politicians from Rousseff's Workers' Party. The Brazilian president's popularity ratings reached a historic low. In April, at least 600,000 people protested against Dilma Rousseff, and more than a million in March.

Demonstrators have taken to the streets in Brazil, kicking off nationwide rallies expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people. Many are calling for President Dilma Rousseff to step down. The demonstrations in the capital Brasilia started on Sunday with at least 5,000 people gathering in the city center. Many were wearing the Brazilian national football team colors and carrying ... Read More »

French government to shut down Uber after violent protests

French Interior Minister Cazeneuve has assured that low-cost car service UberPop will be closed. A violent taxi drivers' protest drew strong criticism from France government, but the cabbies are also getting their wish. Bernard Cazeneuve, who met with representatives of taxi drivers' unions on Friday, said he would meet UberPop officials and tell them that their service is "illegal." "It must, therefore, be closed," Cazeneuve said. "The government will never accept the law of the jungle." In the mean time, Cazeneuve said, "the vehicles of UberPOP drivers should be systematically impounded when they are openly breaking the law." UberPop, a US ride-hailing app, allows customers to hire rides with people operating their private cars - at prices far below the cost of a conventional cab. The company has been operating in Paris since 2011, and claims to have 400,000 customers per month in France. A French law came into force in January banning any service that connects passengers with unlicensed drivers, however, Uber filed a legal challenge against the law and a final verdict is not expected before September. The ban does not apply to the separate licensed-chauffeur service called UberX. Uber recently announced plans to expand its services into three more French cities. French cabbies complain that UberPop drivers can undercut them due to much lower costs as they are not subject to the 250 hours of mandatory training that they have to undergo to get their licenses, nor are they required to carry the same insurance. This has prompted some government officials to express concerns about the safety of passengers using the service. Violent protests Traffic in parts of Paris and a number of other French cities was brought to a halt on Thursday as taxi drivers held nationwide protests against UberPop. The drivers refused to provide service to passengers at major airports and train stations, blocking major thoroughfares, such as the ring road around Paris - and even torching cars. On Friday, French President Francois Hollande condemned the protests as "unacceptable violence in a democracy, in a country like France," but also said the UberPop service should be taken off the road. Even Courtney Love, the wife of deceased US rocker Kurt Cobain, was caught up in Thursday's chaos at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, issuing several fraught Tweets of what she described as a "hostage" situation. Among the other targets disrupted by the striking cabbies were the airport and main train station in the southern port of Marseille. Police eventually used tear gas to break up that protest. Prime Minister Manuel Valls also lashed out at the taxi drivers for tarnishing France's reputation. "These incidents give a deplorable image to visitors of our country." Taxi drivers in other European countries have also held protests against Uber, and the service has been banned in Germany.

French Interior Minister Cazeneuve has assured that low-cost car service UberPop will be closed. A violent taxi drivers’ protest drew strong criticism from France government, but the cabbies are also getting their wish. Bernard Cazeneuve, who met with representatives of taxi drivers’ unions on Friday, said he would meet UberPop officials and tell them that their service is “illegal.” “It ... Read More »

Siemens workers protest job cuts

Siemens employees have taken to the streets across Germany for a day of action against looming job cuts. Thousands of protesters insisted the company be restructured without any job losses in the months ahead. Siemens employees turned out in large numbers in Germany Tuesday to rally against massive job cuts announced earlier by the engineering giant's executive board. In Berlin alone, an estimated 1,500 workers took to the streets in fear of losing their jobs at one of Siemens' gas turbine facilities. CEO Joe Kaeser had announced in May that the company would have to slash another 4,500 jobs worldwide – 2,200 of them in Germany – in a bid to react to a rapidly changing business environment in Europe and to become more profitable again. Kaeser pointed to the ongoing problems in the power generation sector as demand for gas turbines had decreased rapidly due to Germany's shift to renewables, but also as a result of slow economic growth in the rest of the eurozone and the wider European Union. Different perspectives Works Council chief Birgit Steinborn said in Berlin that employees would put up a fight and resist management's plans. "What we need is innovation instead of cost reductions and job cuts," she told vociferous protesters. In the city of Nuremberg, where another 1,200 Siemens workers took part in the day of action, Jürgen Wechsler from the IG Metall metal workers' union warned that the company was in the process of weakening some of the firm's core businesses for the sake of short-term savings. "This is playing with fire," Wechsler said.

Siemens employees have taken to the streets across Germany for a day of action against looming job cuts. Thousands of protesters insisted the company be restructured without any job losses in the months ahead. Siemens employees turned out in large numbers in Germany Tuesday to rally against massive job cuts announced earlier by the engineering giant’s executive board. In Berlin ... Read More »

Thousands rally against domestic violence in Argentina

Huge numbers of people have flooded the streets of Buenos Aires to protest against domestic violence. It follows a series of brutal murders of women that have shocked Argentina. Hundreds of thousands were expected in Buenos Aires to protest against violence against women. Simultaneous marches are being held elsewhere in Argentina and also in Chile, Uruguay and Mexico. Soccer star Lionel Messi and Argentinian president Cristina Kirchner led Wednesday's rally in Buenos Aires. The country has been left stunned by the murder of a kindergarten teacher whose estranged husband slit her throat in front of her class. In another case, the boyfriend of a 14-year-old girl is accused of beating her to death for becoming pregnant. Another woman whose boyfriend stabbed her to death in broad daylight in a Buenos Aires cafe has also caused outrage. Anti-violence campaigners say 277 women in Argentina were killed last year through domestic violence, despite the country passing a law punishing femicide with life in jail. Sixteen Latin American countries have written femicide into their penal codes, establishing harsher punishments for the killing of a woman by a man when gender plays a part in the crime. Activists say a 2009 law cracking down on violence against women has not been effectively implemented. Wednesday's rallies were backed by rights groups, unions, political parties and the Catholic Church.

Huge numbers of people have flooded the streets of Buenos Aires to protest against domestic violence. It follows a series of brutal murders of women that have shocked Argentina. Hundreds of thousands were expected in Buenos Aires to protest against violence against women. Simultaneous marches are being held elsewhere in Argentina and also in Chile, Uruguay and Mexico. Soccer star ... Read More »

US city protests over Baltimore police custody death of Freddie Gray

امریکی شہر بالٹی مور میں ایک سیاہ فام ملزم فرَیڈی گرےکی پولیس تحویل میں ہلاکت کے بعد اب چھ پولیس افسران کو اپنے خلاف دوسرے درجے کے قتل سے متعلق الزامات کا سامنا کرنا پڑے گا۔ اس سیاہ فام ملزم کی ہلاکت کے بعد امریکا میں احتجاجی مظاہروں کا سلسلہ شروع ہو گیا تھا۔ قبل ازیں امریکی ریاست میری لینڈ کے چیف میڈیکل افسر نے بھی فرَیڈی گرے کی موت کو قانونی طور پر دانستہ انسانی ہلاکت قرار دیا تھا۔ دریں اثناء امریکی صدر باراک اوباما نےجمعے کے روز کہا کہ یہ امر انتہائی ضروری ہے کہ فرَیڈی گرے کی ہلاکت کے سلسلے میں تمام حقائق سامنے لائے جائیں اور سچ کو پوری طرح بے نقاب کیا جائے۔

There have been marches in a number of US cities and Baltimore to protest the death in police custody of 25-year-old black man Freddie Gray. Gray died April 19 of a fatal but unexplained spinal injury. In Washington, a well-organized march on Wednesday by a thousand people ended at the White House, where protesters chanted and held signs reading, “Stop ... Read More »

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