From daily The Morning Star in Britain:
Police attack injures 20 at Romanian rally
Sunday 15 January 2012
by Tom Mellen
Riot police attacked a mass demonstration in Bucharest on Saturday against plans to privatise emergency health services, wounding more than 20 people and arresting around 40.
Protesters had massed in central Universitate Square, calling for early elections and shouting: “Down with Basescu” – referring to President Traian Basescu – “Stop thievery” and “You lied to us and robbed us,” while others blew whistles and jeered.
Some waved the Romanian national tricolour with the centre ripped out, a symbol of the uprising that overthrew the socialist regime in 1989.
When protesters blocked traffic, riot police waded in with batons and tear gas. Some protesters responded by hurling stones at officers, at least one of whom suffered a serious head injury.
A total of five police were treated for injuries. Some 20 protesters were wounded, including 16 who required hospital treatment. Several of the injured were elderly people.
Protests kicked off on Wednesday after the resignation of Deputy Health Minister Raed Arafat, a Palestinian with Romanian citizenship.
Mr Arafat quit on Tuesday over a draft healthcare law mandated by the governments’ creditors which seeks to introduce privately owned emergency health services.
President Basescu took a two-year €20 billion (£16.5 billion) loan from the International Monetary Fund, the EU and the World Bank in 2009.
As well as agreeing to open up the country’s health service to private business, Mr Basescu slashed public-sector pay by 25 per cent and increased taxes.
Pensioner Rodica Patran, who took part in Saturday’s protest, said she had turned out to express her opposition to a pensions freeze and the swingeing public-sector pay cut, which was adopted by the Basescu government in July 2010.
“We can no longer stand the poverty. Enough is enough,” Ms Patran declared.
Protesters staged smaller rallies in Timisoara, Constanta, Craiova, Cluj and in other towns.
After three days of angry protests, Mr Basescu announced on Friday night that he had asked Prime Minister Emil Boc to withdraw the draft health-care law.
But citizens out in the streets on Saturday said they did not believe him.