Yellow Vests Give Ammunition to Countries Macron Wants to Lecture

(Bloomberg) -- The Yellow Vest protests in France are providing ammunition for countries who don’t like to be lectured about human rights.

At a press conference in Cairo Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he’d just given his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi a list of imprisoned journalists and activists. A local reporter asked how he intended to guarantee the human rights of protesters arrested in France.

Though some have complained of rough police tactics, there’s no suggestion that France has infringed the rights of those who’ve blocked highways and marched through Paris to protest against Macron’s government.

But the question is dogging the president all the same as he seeks to claim the moral high ground ahead of May’s European parliamentary elections.

On Jan. 26 Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations compared the unrest in Venezuela to debating the Yellow Vest protest as the Security Council looked to discuss its response to the chaos unfolding in Caracas.

The envoy, Vassily Nebenzya, assured the body he had no intention of calling for a formal debate on France’s internal situation, but his barb still highlighted Macron’s discomfort.

The Yellow Vests have already pushed Macron to upend his budget policy, potentially putting him in breach of EU rules. Now he’s having to explain the difference between French police tactics and the crackdown in Egypt.

“During these demonstrations, some extremist individuals committed crimes, sacking businesses and public buildings,” Macron said at the press conference in Sisi’s presidential palace. “In legitimate manner they were arrested -- not because they said things but because they broke things.”

Then he was asked about the 11 people who have died since the protests began in November.

“I deplore that people died because of human foolishness, but none were killed by the security forces,” he said.

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