Monday, January 10, 2011

Riots in Algeria and Tunisia

A couple of poverty wrecked nations have seen riots over the past week. Algeria and Tunisia have long seen oil revenues being sunk into corruption, a large gap between rich and poor, but what set the people over the edge was increased in food prices. The two Arab nations have long been applauded by the west for making economic improvements.

From the Inter Press Service, writer Emad Mekay details what has sparked the rioting.

At least three Algerians have died and hundreds have been injured in four days of protests over housing shortages, rising food prices and failing economic policies that only three months ago won praise by the International Monetary Fund and other Western financial institutions.

The protests in Algeria come as similar demonstrations continue unabated in the neighbouring North African nation Tunisia, also hailed previously as an economic success story by Western banks and investors.

At least four Tunisians have died during the ongoing protests against the poor economic performance of Western-backed autocratic ruler President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

The protests in both Arab countries were initially ignored by the Western media and Western governments but as the protests escalated Washington began to take note.

A Middle East advisor to former U.S. president George W. Bush and leading neo-conservative Elliott Abrams said on his blog at the Council on Foreign Relations that Tunisia was an "unimportant" country, but expressed concern that the fallout from the demonstrations could be dangerous for other Arab nations.

The spillover from Tunisia was quick to come in neighbouring Algeria, a country that provides Europe with 20 percent of its gas needs and is the world’s sixth largest natural gas producer after Russia, the United States, Canada, Iran, and Norway.

More specifically, the trigger for this week’s riots in Algeria came at the beginning of the month when staple food prices such as flour, cooking oil, milk and sugar averaged a 30 percent increase in the four days prior to the break-out of the protests.

Algerians, who had admiringly watched Tunisians shrug off their decades- long image of meekness during weeks of protests, also took to the streets venting their frustration at several government offices, mail offices and some banks.

Algerian Trade Minister Mustafa Benbada was forced Saturday to act to bring down rising food prices. He announced that the government will cut food prices by 14 percent, the official Algerian News Agency said.

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