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Romanians Demand Better Life

Protest: Some workers say economic and political problems were fewer under communism.

November 23, 2001|From Associated Press

BUCHAREST, Romania — About 10,000 workers marched through this capital city Thursday to protest poverty, low wages and corruption in national politics. Some of the demonstrators claimed that times were better under communism.

"More than a decade since the [1989] anti-Communist uprising, Romania is among the last in Europe in living standards and attracting foreign investment," said Bogdan Hossu, head of the Alfa Cartel, a large union that organized the demonstration.

The Alfa Cartel accused Romania's political class of corruption and of impeding economic development by passing inconsistent laws.

It is demanding tax relief and increased wages and pensions to match inflation.

It also wants utility prices to be lowered.

The protesters stopped in front of the government headquarters in downtown Bucharest to call for the government to resign.

They chanted "Thieves!" "Down with corruption!" and "Ceausescu, where are you?" in reference to the late Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

He was overthrown and executed in 1989.

The government raised utility prices last month as part of a plan to bring them up to international levels.

Monthly utilities now can cost up to $50, a strain on budgets in a country where the average monthly salary is about $100.

Since the 1997-2000 recession, about 35% of the population lives below the poverty line, defined as a monthly wage of $40.

The economy started to recover last year and is expected to grow this year by about 4.5%, but living standards have been slow to improve.

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