Tunisia head to slash food prices
TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisia’s autocratic president, facing deadly riots that have rocked his nation, ordered prices on food staples slashed and suggested he will leave the presidency — but not until 2014.
President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in a televised speech last night, also pledged to end Internet censorship and to open up the political playing field in a country where he has allowed little public criticism for the past 23 years.
Pent-up anger at unemployment, and at a leadership many see as controlling and corrupt, has exploded into protests and clashes with police over the past few weeks. At least 23 have been killed, possibly dozens more.
A protester was fatally shot and a journalist was hit in the leg by police gunfire yesterday as rioting youths clashed with authorities in Tunisia’s capital, witnesses said.
The second day of violence in the heart of Tunis sharply escalated a conflict between protesters and an authoritarian government that appears more and more willing to use force to put down its greatest challenge in at least a generation.
Calling for a “cease-fire,” Ben Ali told his nation, “I have understood you.”
“I won’t accept that another drop of blood of a Tunisian be spilled,” he said. He said he had issued orders to the interior minister that no bullets be fired on protesters, unless security forces are under threat.
He also ordered prices slashed on sugar, milk and bread.
Significantly, he said the 75-year age limit on presidential candidates should remain untouched. That would mean Ben Ali, who is 74 and has never faced serious opposition for the presidency, would not be able to run for a sixth term in 2014. (AP)