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Tunisia president says detainees were behind shortages, price rises

February 14, 2023 at 8:47 pm

Tunisian President Kais Saied in Djerba Island, Tunisia [Mohamed Mdalla/Anadolu Agency]

Tunisia’s president on Tuesday accused some people detained in a wave of recent arrests of being responsible for price increases and food shortages, accusing them of seeking to fuel a social crisis, reports Reuters.

Speaking in a meeting with the trade minister in a video published online, President Kais Saied vowed to move forward with strength and determination to “clean the country” in the first official comments on the arrests.

Is Tunisia's president Kais Saied like Louis XIV, King of France? - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Is Tunisia’s president Kais Saied like Louis XIV, King of France? – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Since Saturday police have detained a number of leading figures with links to the opposition or to critics of Saied including prominent politicians, a powerful businessman and the head of Tunisia’s main independent news outlet.

“The recent arrests have shown that a number of criminals involved in conspiring against the internal and external security of the state are the ones behind the crises by distributing food stuff and raising their prices,” he said.

He did not give any details on which of the detained people he was referring to or how they were responsible for the crisis.

In the video, Saied was shown calling on judges to take appropriate decisions against “the traitors who seek to fuel the social crisis”.

Tunisians have been suffering for months from shortages of food commodities that have disappeared from stores, including sugar, cooking oil, coffee, milk and butter.

READ: Tunisia labour union to launch protests against Saied’s measures

Saied, a political independent who ran for office on a platform of fighting corruption, has repeatedly blamed unnamed hoarders and speculators for the high prices and shortages over recent months.

Economic experts say that the shortages, which have affected subsidised products, are mainly caused by a crisis in public finances as the state attempts to avert bankruptcy while negotiating for an international bailout.

The opposition has said the campaign of arrests aims to silence dissent, empower a slide towards autocracy and cover up Saied’s failure to manage the worsening social and economic crisis.