One person killed during protests in Tunisia


One protester was killed on Monday during demonstrations in the town of Tebourba, west of Tunis.

The immediate cause of the unrest is government-imposed price and tax rises, which will raise the cost of basic goods but are said to be essential to cut a ballooning deficit and satisfy global lenders.

Safwan M. Masri, the executive vice president for global centers and global development at Columbia University, and author of the book "Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly", said the new protests were the latest manifestation of an age-old problem: "huge economic disparity between the coastal and interior regions of the country". PM Youssef Chahed condemned acts of "vandalism" by the protesters, saying they were trying to weaken the state.

Police and Army forces were deployed in several cities, including Tuburba, which is 30 km away. The wave of protests came a day apart from the city of Tale (Kasserine, central western Tunisia) to nearby Sidi Bouzid.

Rejecting that accusation, Tunisia's main opposition bloc, the Popular Front, called for a major protest in Tunis on Sunday to coincide with the seventh anniversary of Ben Ali's fall.

Chibani added that buildings of the security forces were also damaged in the southern town of Hamma.

Demonstrations have broken out in the capital and other towns, with protesters blocking roads and throwing stones at police, who responded with rubber bullets, according to Mosaique FM radio. A video circulating on Facebook on Tuesday purportedly showed how police ran over the 55-year-old man, but the country's interior ministry denied the allegations and insisted he died from "chronic shortness of breath". Food prices have also risen by about 8 percent each year since the 2011 revolution, while unemployment stands at over 15 percent.

"People have to understand that the situation is extraordinary and their country has difficulties but we believe that 2018 will be the last hard year for the Tunisians", Chahed told reporters in comments broadcast on local radio.

"All we are asking for now is to wait", insisted Chahed, and he assured that 2018 will be the a year ago for some austerity measures given the positive economic indicators detected by his government.

Tunisia's has been in economic crisis since 2011, when the Arab Spring uprising unseated the government.

Authorities promised the International Monetary Fund (IMF) they would cut spending in exchange for a $2.9 billion (U.S.) loan that year. Large protests that year forced the ouster of longtime dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.