Tunisia: Protests against Rising Prices, Tax Increases Sweep Streets

Tunisia: Protests against Rising Prices, Tax Increases Sweep Streets

Protests against a set of austerity measures including price and tax hikes swept across Tunisia leaving one person dead. The interior ministry says the detentions follow attacks on police stations and government buildings, as well as vandalism during anti-establishment protests.

Demonstrations broke out in the North African country Sunday spreading since then to more than 20 towns as people protest against new tax and price increases imposed by the government on January 1 to reduce a ballooning deficit and satisfy foreign lenders.

Tunisia has been seen as a rare success story of the uprising that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, but people still feel disenfranchised.

Khalifa Chibani, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said 44 people had been arrested overnight across the country.

The protests broke out after activists and politicians denounced increases in Value-Added Tax and the introduction of social contributions at the start of the year as a tough new budget was implemented. Prime Minister Youssef Chahed called for calm, while at the same time affirming the right to demonstrate in the streets.

Security forces have reportedly arrested more than 300 people in the protests, according to the Guardian, which were triggered by unemployment and rising prices of basic goods.

Police responded by firing tear gas at the demonstrators.

U.S. and Britain fail to cause Iran unrest
He also lashed out at Donald Trump on Tuesday, accusing the United States president of being "a very unstable man" who exhibited "extreme and psychotic episodes".

Tunisia's has been in economic crisis since 2011, when the Arab Spring uprising unseated the government.

Elsewhere, two Molotov cocktailswere thrown at a synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba, setting fire to the building, Associated Press reported. There have also been reports of crowds targeting Jewish community sites.

Protests are common in the North African country in the month of January, when Tunisians mark the anniversary of the 2011 revolt that led to Ben Ali's ouster.

The powerful UGTT trade union said young unemployed Tunisians had legitimate demands but condemned the "violence and looting", calling for peaceful protests.

The opposition parties also called for the continuation of the demonstrations until the cancellation of the "unjust budget of 2018", including the raising of prices and taxes. They have been more conciliatory in the past and given some concessions.

Protests in Tunisia have expanded to major cities such as Beja, Nabeul, Qebily, Bizerte and Sidi Bouzid, after initially breaking out in a number of poor neighborhoods in the capital, and in Manouba, Gafsa and Kasserine.

"Wherever you go, in a shop or in a drugstore, every price is higher", said Wael Naouar, a protester.

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