Unrest As Mexican President Sworn In
Dozens of people have been injured in unrest that broke out as Enrique Pena Nieto took office as Mexico’s new president. Authorities said at least 76 people were injured and around 100 detained as police battled protesters who hurled gasoline bombs and smashed shop fronts. Demonstrators had rallied on inauguration day on December 1 to oppose the return to power of Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico for more than 70 years until 2000.
Clashes rock Tunisia town as step made toward peace deal
SILIANA, Tunisia — Fresh clashes erupted on Saturday in the flashpoint Tunisian town of Siliana, amid rising discontent over poor living conditions two years after the revolution, but a deal was struck aimed at satisfying protesters’ demands. In Siliana, where violence has left more than 300 people wounded this week, hundreds of youths, armed with rocks and petrol bombs, clashed throughout the afternoon with the police, an AFP journalist reported.
The protesters also erected barricades from branches and tyres, setting some of them on fire, in the fifth straight day of unrest in the impoverished town. Residents are demanding the governor’s resignation, financial aid and the withdrawal of police. In nearby Bargou, protesters with similar grievances blocked a road and hurled rocks at police vehicles heading for Tunis, with the police again firing tear gas to disperse them.
Calm returned to Siliana by the evening, with security forces patrolling the streets in armoured vehicles and on foot, after dispersing most of the protesters by firing warning shots and tear gas. But some young protesters remained on the streets, determined to keep up their resistance to the security forces, who were more numerous and better organised than on Friday. “They must leave!” shouted one hooded youth, holding a petrol bomb.
Precarious living conditions, widespread unemployment and police brutality were driving factors behind the revolution that toppled former strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January last year and touched off the Arab Spring. President Moncef Marzouki warned on Friday that the crisis could spread, saying the government of Islamist and rival Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali was not meeting the expectations of the people. “We do not have a single Siliana… I am afraid that it could spread to several regions and threaten the future of the revolution,” Marzouki said in a televised speech. He said Tunisia was at a crossroads between “the road to ruin and the road to recovery.”
Bangladesh workers clash with police in fire protest
DHAKA — Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas Sunday in clashes with thousands of Bangladeshi workers protesting over the deaths of 110 people in one of the country’s worst factory fires and the sacking of labourers. Industrial police deputy director Baser Uddin said the sacking of scores of workers at a plant triggered the latest demonstration following the deadly blaze last weekend at Tazreen Fashion in the Ashulia industrial area north of the capital Dhaka.
“We shot rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them,” Uddin said, adding that the protestors blocked a key highway, torching furniture and tyres. Protesters fought back with stones, police said, turning the industrial area, home to hundreds of plants which make clothing for Western retailers, into a battleground. He said Tazreen Fashion workers joined the protest, demanding their wages and justice for the victims of the fire. “The Tazreen workers were told that they would be paid their November salary on Saturday. The owners did not keep their word. There was no payment even on Sunday,” he said.
At least 50 guards and workers of an export-oriented leather factory were injured when several hundred garment workers attacked the company’s premises and vandalised six of its vehicles in Ashulia yesterday. Located at Pukurpar in Zirabo of Ashulia, Picard Bangladesh Ltd, a Bangladesh-German joint venture, came under attack from the workers at around 3:00pm as its owners, like many readymade garment factories in the area, did not give in to their sudden call for production suspension.
“At least 50 of our staffers, most of them female, became victims of the attack. Over 25 of them were hospitalised with severe injuries,” Musleh Uddin Ahmed, a deputy manager (store) of the factory, told The Daily Star. Picard Bangladesh, which employs 1,200 people, manufactures leather hand bags, briefcases and small leather goods for exports. Apart from manufacturing its own brands, it produces products for customers based in Australia, Europe, Canada, Japan and Singapore, according to the company’s website. Witnesses and officials said the trouble started with a fire panic at a the factory of Mascot Group in the area, which left 50 of its workers wounded and prompted its owners into declaring the remaining day off for workers at its three factories.
When its workers came out of the factory, those in other factories in the area followed suit fearing attacks. Garment workers gathered on the road in front of Picard Bangladesh and started agitating, demanding production suspension at the factory at around 2:45pm, witnesses said. Several hundred workers broke open the main gate and attacked all the units housed in three separate buildings of the factory in around an hour of the rampage, the witnesses said. They also damaged six vehicles of the factory, which were parked on the factory premises. A visit to the factory after the vandalism revealed that all glass, windowpanes and furniture of the building had been damaged, vehicles smashed and flower tubs in the garden broken. Ashes caused by fire were seen at the main entrance of the factory.
During the attacks, around 15 policemen were seen hiding for safety inside a building in front of the leather factory when the attackers looted valuables and vandalised the factories, creating a panicky situation among the workers, security guards and officials of the factory.
“The unruly workers first started damaging the window panes of the factory by pelting brick chips. At one stage, they stormed it by breaking its main gate made of heavy steel,” said Mohammad Shahjahan, a security guard of the leather factory, who suffered severe injuries when he fell under the broken gate. Shahjahan said, “Soon after the attackers stormed into the premises, they went violent. Many of them resorted to vandalism from outside the buildings, equipped with various sticks and brick chips while many others ran into all the buildings for looting.” Saiful Islam, managing director of Picard Bangladesh, said, “At one point of the violent attack, I along with my daughter [Amrita Markin Islam, who is also the head of business of the factory], had to hide in the strong room to save our lives.” He said the attackers either might have been the workers of various RMG factories or criminals.
One of the leading entrepreneurs of the country, Saiful vented his anger over the reluctance of the police to respond. “We begged for the security of our lives from the police by phone. You (police) please come. But the police did not come on time,” said a frustrated Saiful, standing at the factory premises, which were littered mostly with broken glass and brickbats. “Today, we were really afraid for our lives. There is no security of our lives, our factories,” he said.’
His daughter Amrita Makin Islam, who is head of operations and business development, was present at the time of the attacks. “What is my fault? Have I committed any mistake by setting up industries in the country and exporting from this country?” Saiful asked. He told Industrial Police director Golam Rouf: “If you (police) had reached on time, such severe damage might not have been caused to the property.” “You know, it is a Bangladesh-German join venture. Now what shall I tell them about it?” he asked.
Industrial police, however, said they had tried their best. Golam Rouf said, “We have done our best. We dispersed the attackers and saved the factory from their bid to burn it down.” He, however, acknowledged the limitations of the police and said they had to make their way to the factory through several agitations and clashes by the workers of many other factories in the area.
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia – More than 30 people are facing charges in Slovenia, police said Saturday, for clashing with police during anti-government protests in the capital that left more than 15 people injured and fueled tensions on the eve of a presidential election in the economically struggling EU nation. The demonstrators, who were detained after Friday’s clashes, have been released pending further investigation, said police spokeswoman Maja Ciperle Adlesic.
The 33 people been charged with violating public order and will face further charges for attacking police, she said. About 8,000 people joined the demonstrations in Ljubljana against Prime Minister Janez Jansa’s government and its cost-cutting measures drafted to avoid an international bailout for the financially troubled Slovenia. Police said violence erupted at the end of the gathering when more than 100 violent extremists threw rocks, and police responded with water cannons and tear gas.
The hooded, young demonstrators then fought street battles with the police throughout the city centre. The clashes in Ljubljana were the second this week, after a rally in the second-largest city of Maribor against the local mayor also turned violent. Violent protests are highly unusual in the otherwise calm Alpine nation, triggering fears Slovenia’s economic crisis could push the country into instability.
Police said many of the demonstrators were underage and some already have criminal records. They said the hooligans came to the protests in organized groups, carrying backpacks filled with rocks and fire balls. Local media reported they are members of far-right and hooligan groups, which have mushroomed in Slovenia because of the crisis. Police said an investigation is still under way.
“We never had riots like this against police in Slovenia,” spokesman Vinko Stojicek said. “We will analyze the behaviour and draw conclusions.” More protests are planned for next week in both Ljubljana and Maribor. Slovenia is facing one of the worst recessions of the 17 eurozone nations. Its economy has shrunk more than 8 per cent since 2009 and continues to decline, resulting in a sharp drop in exports and living standards and a surge in unemployment, which now stands at about 12 per cent.