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Romania: Protesters Demonstrate Against Economic Policies

Bucharest, 23 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - Reports from Bucharest say that about 5,000 demonstrators gathered in the center of the city yesterday to protest the government's economic policies, which they claim have lowered the standard of living.

The protest was organized by the opposition Social Democracy Party, which ruled Romania for seven years after the collapse of the Ceausescu regime in 1989, and the extremist Greater Romania Party. The action was the first against the governing reform coalition, which came to power last year promising to introduce market mechanisms into the economy.

The action coincided with a protest fast by a smaller number of people who claim to have participated in the 1989 revolution. They're protesting moves by the government to cut their benefits, including free access to mass transit and income-tax exemptions. Scuffles erupted as the police tried to prevent individuals from the larger protest from joining the 1989 participants.Meanwhile, five hunger fasters were hospitalized today as a result of their prolonged strike, which is now in its thirteenth day.