Utility Protests Sweep Morocco as True Reform Languishes

Utility Protests Sweep Morocco as True Reform Languishes
Anti-government protesters march with labor union activists, denouncing the government's failure to address unemployment and rising prices, Rabat, Morocco, March 31, 2013 (AP photo by Abdeljalil Bounhar).

In Morocco’s largest protest since 2011, more than 20,000 demonstrators, primarily youth, rallied in Tangier on Saturday, decrying the exorbitant cost of water and electricity. Although mass gatherings are scarce in Morocco, where the king holds a tight grip on power, the past three weeks have been punctuated by demonstrations over utilities prices, with protests spreading to other major cities in recent days.

Protesters lashed out against Amendis, a subsidiary of the French utility company Veolia Environnement, which has serviced the relatively impoverished northern cities of Tangier and Tetouan since 2002. “Amendis, go home, Tangier is not yours,” demonstrators chanted, while calling for utility services to be nationalized.

The Interior Ministry, the Tangier City Council and Amendis formed committees to review customers’ bills and adjust errors, but called for residents to cease “irresponsible” public gatherings, a response that falls far short of protesters’ demands for an end to privatized utility services. Amendis has long been the target of criticism and was the subject of protests in 2011.

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