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Sarkozy promises ‘war without mercy’ for Paris suburbs
French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to crack down on violence, drugs and truancy in France’s impoverished suburbs during a visit on Tuesday to Trembray-en-France, the scene of a brutal bus attack last month.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said his government would step up security and take tough measures to tackle drug dealing and truancy during a visit to the crime-plagued district of Seine-Saint-Denis, just north of Paris.
"No city, no neighbourhood, no building in Seine-Saint-Denis will escape the rule of law,” Sarkozy declared to a crowd gathered at the local municipal building.
Sarkozy’s visit came weeks after a crowded bus was attacked in the suburb of Tremblay-en-France in Seine-Saint-Denis and a gang of hooded youths threw Molotov cocktails at the bus. The driver managed to get all the passengers safely off the bus.
But the incident led bus drivers to briefly boycott routes in the troubled suburb.
The bus attack came days after police made a drugs bust in Tremblay-en-France, in which they seized several kilogrammes of cocaine, heroin and cannabis, and almost a million euros in cash.
On Tuesday, Sarkozy visited two bus depots in Seine-Saint-Denis. In an address to bus drivers, Sarkozy stressed that, “the violence in public transport and in schools in Seine-Saint-Denis must end”.
The tougher law-and-order measures included the provision of about 600 additional video surveillance cameras and doubling the number of state inspectors to crack down on illegal businesses in the housing projects.
Sarkozy also said that the stopping of government subsidies to families who fail to send their children to school would become systematic and announced the creation of special schools for pupils who seriously disrupt school-time.
Pandering to the Right voters
While President Sarkozy has been eager to demonstrate his commitment to appoint non-white French people to senior government posts, commentators highlighted the president’s change in tone on Tuesday, and speculated on his eagerness to please voters on the political right.
Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party is still reeling from an embarrassing defeat in recent regional elections - a poll that was also marked by the comeback of the far-right National Front party.
Dozens of protesters at Tremblay-en-France's municipal building, mostly immigrant residents complaining about their treatment by local officials, were kept at bay with special security and extra police.