Crisis hitting Eastern Europe, massive protests continue to grow

A woman passes by a fire set up in the middle of the road by protesters at the University Square in Bucharest, January 15, 2012.

Romanian PM warns protesters on fifth day

Monday, January 16, 2012

By Radu Marinas and Luiza Ilie

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania’s prime minister warned anti-austerity protesters gathering for a fifth day on Monday that violence would not be tolerated after 59 people were injured in clashes between demonstrators and riot police at the weekend.

The country’s worst unrest for more than a decade has seen riot police using tear gas against protesters throwing bricks, smashing windows and setting fire to newspaper stands and rubbish bins in central Bucharest since it began on Thursday.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered peacefully in central Bucharest and other cities on Monday afternoon, demanding Prime Minister Emil Boc and his close political ally President Traian Basescu resign.

The numbers were expected to rise in the evening and analysts predicted more protests but did not see them affecting the austerity measures passed by the ruling coalition’s small but stable parliamentary majority.

The country had hitherto avoided the kind of violence that has shaken Greece and other indebted European states despite a 25 percent cut in public sector pay and five percentage point increase in VAT imposed in 2010 to maintain an IMF-led bailout. Continue reading