Three Months' Prison for Bové

photo: la brulerie caumartin

A handy canteen stop between the 'grands magazins' and the Gare Saint-Lazare.

Taxes Getting More Notice

Paris:- Sunday, 17. September 2000:- Almost a year to the day after this column carried the headline 'José Bové - Freed!' - the Monsieur Bové in question has been sentenced for the 'sacking' of the McDonald's outlet, under construction in Millau.

Expecting a token term of a month, suspended, or less - the actual penalty of three months' hardtime set off a media explosion that propelled the peasant leader back into the world news' blender.

The court's president, François Mallet, said he didn't want to see Millau transformed into the 'Capital of a Citizen's Revolt.' Assisted by two other judges, the president characterized the actions that took place on Thursday, 12. August 1999, as 'grave.'

Mr. Bové was designated as the instigator and organizer of the 'deconstruction.' The severity of the penalty handed out was to 'get him to finally listen to reason.'

At the trial last June, the prosecutor had asked for a ten-month sentence, with only one month of it in jail - because of the three weeks Mr. Bové had already spent in 'preventive detention.'

The judges made a conciliatory gesture all the same. Mr. Bovéphoto: menu 5790, sign already has another eight-month term of prison to serve in suspension, which would normally be automatically applied to the new sentence - but this was not invoked.

Five of Mr. Bové's companions received fines of 2000 or 3000 francs, and one was left with no penalty. Three others received suspended sentences.

One said he was 'vexed' to receive no more than a fine, and all announced they would appeal the decisions.

The severe three-month term caught left-wing and green politicians and union leaders by surprise, and they generally condemned the court's decision.

On the weekend, José Bové was one of the media's stars making a brief visit to the Communist-sponsored 'Fête de l'Huma' near Paris.

Gas Prices Continue To Rise

One day Le Parisien says that gas prices are going down and two days later the news is they are going up. Even if France's truckers are back on the road again, a lot of other people are unhappy with the situation.

Artisans have set up traffic 'filters' in various parts of France, and they have been joined by auto-school operators, and some forestry haulers.

Since Parisians are hardly menaced by these actions, they are not page one news. Outside of France, various groups that use petrol are installing 'filters,' escargot races or barricades.

This is happening in Germany, Ireland, Spain, Norway, Poland and Holland, and involves truckers, taxi drivers, farmers and tour bus operators.

Not forgotten, however, is the huge part government taxes play in the retail price of fuel. It was concessions on this front that got the trucks rolling again in France.

Other groups, and not just those using fuel, are looking at these concessions and wondering why they can not have them too. Restaurant operators, for example, want the value-added tax on meals reduced from 19.6 percent to the 5.5 percent that fast-food places are allowed to charge.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

The proposal to change France's seven-year presidential term to five years, which will be decided at ballot boxes next Sunday, 24. September, seems to be meeting general indifference.

It appears as if the polling studies, which are saying there will be a poor turnout, are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is despite the number of prominent political leaders and personalities who have madephoto: vedrines monument, gal lafayette many appearances on TV in order to spur voter turnout.

Before I lived in France, I used to hear some grumbling about the numerous Sundays given over to voting; but many people did take the time to vote - if only to find if they voted for the winners.

Aviator Védrines landed 'ici même' in 1919, several years before the top floors were added to Galeries Lafayette.

With a seven-year term for president, and six-year terms for municipal elections, my feeling is that the average French citizen is vote-lazy. With such long times between elections it is felt that rare elections don't really count for much - especially if they aren't 'left'-'right' faceoffs.

Many of the proponents of voting keep repeating that a shorter presidential term is a step towards greater democracy, but the arguments are too intellectual.

Other boosters say that a shortened presidential term will be followed by votes for shortened terms for senators, deputies and municipal council members. But the President himself has not said he will call for these changes.

What voters might have liked - as has been suggested by 'vote no' champions - would have been a referendum including all terms of political office. The way it has been presented, there will be an endless series of referendums, if all political terms are subject to changes.

The reluctance to tinker with France's constitution is perhaps because of France's continued commitment to centralized power. Nobody really believes that politicians want shorter terms.

President Jacques Chirac thinks it is necessary and desirable, and this is why he put the top office - and his own job - up for a vote.

My guess that he thought he could dare to do this much, and no more. He has been touring the country often in an effort to get a respectable turnout next Sunay - for or against.

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