José Bové Freed!

photo: bistro le michelet

Cafés come in all sizes, from huge to cozy.

Continues Fight Against the 'Mal-Bouffe'

Paris:- Sunday, 12. September 1999:- Last Tuesday, sheepherder and peasant leader José Bové was freed after bail set at 105,000 francs was deposited with the court in Montpellier.

French justice had placed him in jail for his part in the dis-construction of a new McDonald's site at Millau. Four other peasant militants had been freed earlier after paying the same amount of bail.

José Bové is head of the leftist-ecolo Peasant's Confederation. Although smaller in numbers than the main French Farmers Association, it is a lot more militant - and its leader is a lot more prone to be in conflict with judicial authorities.

However, by refusing to pay the bail set by the court, José Bové narrowly focused French attention on agricultural problems in general - which have been major news since the summer - with farmers protesting below-cost prices received for their production.

Outside the jail's door, José Bové sat down to a picnic of local and regional products. His group is agitating against the pressure the WTO is putting on the world's consumers to accept genetically altered food products - what he calls the 'mal-bouffe.'

For the McDonald's caper and a couple of other recent actions, José Bové faces possible penalties of five years in prison and a fine of 500,000 francs.

A day before his release, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin remarked that since Mr. Bové was unlikely to flee, there was little reason for his 'preventive detention.'

This is, however, a very common occurrence in French judicial affairs. In cases of the accused being found innocent in court, I don't know how innocent detainees are compensated for their time spent in detention.

Media attention plus wide support convinced Mr. Bové it was time to continue the battle outside prison; to prepare for the upcoming WTO summit meeting in Seattle.

In Paris, the newsmagazine 'L'Evenement' had every paper kioskphoto: bove kiosk, mcdonalds plastered with its latest title, showing Bové emerging from a hamburger wearing handcuffs. Since many McDonald's locations in Paris are near high-traffic areas, it was possible to see the cover posted in front of their outlets.

Newspaper kiosk on sidewalk in front of McDonald's outlet.

McDonald's took out full-page newspaper advertisements with the headline 'Made in France.' McDonald's has 750 outlets in France, which employ 30,000 workers, mainly part-time.

McDonald's also claimed it buys beef from 45,000 cattlemen in France, as well as having its potatoes and salads supplied by local farmers. 'Né aux USA, fait en France' is the company's new slogan.

Meanwhile the main farmer's association has stepped up its actions against wholesale distribution centres; they are continuing to protest the sub-cost amounts they receive for produce.

There was a national call for action Friday to block prefectures with 4000 participating against 70 of the governing bodies throughout France. The turnout was less than expected, but some of the actions were spectacular enough for good TV-news images.

The Battle for Paris

There are four reasons for breaking my ban on commenting on Paris municipal politics. The first is that since I have become a resident of the city, I will also pay taxes in it; as well as be able to vote in the coming local elections.

I cannot say the city is being mismanaged in any way. However, the present mayor, Jean Tiberi is under attack from his own RPR party - partly for announcing his candidature for re-election without consulting the party first. The RPR is in total disarray, but the self-candidature has been seen as a giant 'faux-pas.'

Mayor Tiberi is also under investigation for various irregularities of administration and will be having a couple of dates with judicial authorities this fall.

The Socialists have picked up steam in various recent elections and look as if they have a chance to break the RPR's decades-long monopoly of power in the city. When former national cultural czarphoto: building rue feydeau and ranking Socialist Jack Lang calls for having next year's Techno Parade on the Champs-Elysées, is he not tossing his hat in the ring?

Some other big elephants of the Socialist party are also rumored to be eyeballing Paris' plush seat in the Hôtel de Ville - such as the current national super-minister of finance, Dominique Strass-Kahn.

Last week, Daniel Cohn-Bendit had a long dinner conversation with socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

'Danny the Red,' the '68er with experience on the Green wing of the Frankfurt city council, parachuted into France as a 'Greenie' and helped the French ecolos get a good score in the European elections last June.

Now he and his brother, Gabriel, have taken up residence in the 14th arrondissement, to wage the municipal battle on behalf of - whom? Sozis, Reds or Greens?

Finally, you may not be full-time residents, but as a group you have an important economic influence on Paris' fortunes. How Paris spends the money it collects from you in 'taxes de séjour' or value-added taxes, not to mention the ill-defined 'tax-tax,' will affect the texture of te city - and thus your visit to it.

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