INTRODUCTION: Morocco's government must take the blame for last weekend's bloddy clashes between strikers and security forces, says the country's leading socialist.
USFP President Abderahim Bouabib answers reporters questions
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Background: INTRODUCTION: Morocco's government must take the blame for last weekend's bloddy clashes between strikers and security forces, says the country's leading socialist. Speaking in Paris on Wednesday (24 June) Mr Abderahim Bouabib, president of the main opposition party, said they should never have introduced food price increases. It was the increases which provoked the general strike throughout Morocco. The government said 66 people died in disturbances during the strike. Mr Bouabib added that there was general agreement in the country about the Western Sahara war. It was on internal issues that disagreement arose.
SYNOPSIS: Socialists had already condemned the government for using what they described as brutal violence to control crowds in Casablanca. They claimed that the authorities were trying to break the strike by using massive intimidation and making hundreds of arrests.
In this interview Mr Bouabib, who heads the Union Socialists Des Forces Populaires (USFP), said the government was irresponsible in putting up food prices. It should have foreseen the effect on the deprived, the poor, and the majority of low-paid workers. He said there were efforts to negotiate with the government before the strike but the authorities did not react.
Asked about the number of people killed in the clashes, he said there were many more than figures released by the government indicated. Immediately after the fighting, party officials insisted that security forces had fired on demonstrators. Interior ministry spokesmen denied the charge. They said the dead people had injuries caused by knives, blunt instruments and rocks, not gunfire.
Mr Abderahim was also asked if democracy in Morocco had now suffered a setback. He replied that the process of democratisation, already in process in every sphere of life, had to be more credible. The government was questioning this process by banning socialist newspapers, he said. Whether progress continued was up to the government. In the meantime, socialists would continue their fight for democratic liberties, union and political freedom.
The new price increases were brought in late in May by Premier Maati Bouabid's government. Ten days later the increases were halved. Workers wages were also raised, but the opposition and trade unions regarded the move as inadequate and went ahead with their nationwide strike.
The government criticised the strike because it came at a time when there were high hopes for a solution over the conflict in the Western Sahara. The Moroccans dispute the territory with guerrillas of the Polisario Front and fighting has been going on in the former Spanish territory for about five years. The pro-government newspaper, Maroc Soir, asked why the strike and violence had broken out when Libya, backers of the Polisario, was making encouraging diplomatic moves.