French minister blames ‘foreign powers’ for protests

PARIS (AA): A French minister blamed “foreign powers” for ongoing Yellow Vest protests across the country, local media reported on Thursday.

Speaking to Radio France Inter, Marlene Schiappa, junior minister for equality, questioned as to who finance the protests.

“Foreign powers?” Schiappa said, adding this question was not meaningless when one takes about Italian officials’ remarks into account.

Earlier this week, a French boxer, who battled riot police, received over €110,000 ($126,623) donations after a website was set up to raise money for him.

On Monday, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio showed his support for Yellow Vest protestors.

In an open letter addressed to the protestors, Di Maio said: “In France as in Italy, politics has become deaf to the needs of citizens, who have been excluded from the most important decisions.”

Yellow Vest protests

The Yellow Vest protests, which started as a reaction to fuel tax hikes and evolved into a protest against French President Emmanuel Macron, have continued despite the government’s call for them to halt.

Since Nov. 17, thousands of protesters wearing bright yellow vests — dubbed the Yellow Vests — have gathered in major French cities, including the capital Paris, to protest Macron’s controversial fuel tax hikes and the deteriorating economic situation.

Demonstrators held protests blocking roads and traffic, and also blocked the entrance and exits to many gas stations and factories across the country.

The protesters, who generally live in rural areas due to high rents in the cities, have called on Macron to cut fuel taxes and ease their economic difficulties.

Under pressure from the protests, Macron announced a rise in the minimum wage and also scuttled controversial fuel tax hikes.

At least 10 people died and more than a thousand others were wounded in the protests.