The man does not perspire. I discovered that on 12 September, on the island of Saint Martin, a French territory in the Caribbean that had been devastated a few days earlier by Hurricane Irma. Uprooted trees, roofs ripped from houses, streets blocked by mountains of debris: for three hours Emmanuel Macron, president of France, has been walking through what remains of the village of Grand Case in the sweltering, clammy heat amid the strong odour of burst sewage pipes – or in other words, of shit. Everyone accompanying him, including the author of these lines, is dripping with sweat, literally soaked, with large circles under their arms. Not him. Although he hasn’t had a second to change or freshen up, his white shirt with elegantly rolled-up sleeves is impeccable. And so it will remain until late in the night, when the rest of us are exhausted, haggard and reeking, and he’s still as fresh as a daisy, always ready to shake new hands. Every interaction with Macron follows … [Read more...] about Orbiting Jupiter: my week with Emmanuel Macron
Westbrook on harden
Emmanuel Macron will seek to placate angry strikers this week while honouring his election pledge to shake up France’s pension system in a delicate balancing act that will define his political future. Ministers are looking at possible concessions that could defuse the strikes and protests that have paralysed the country since last week. Transport chaos continued this weekend and unions have called for another day of industrial action on Tuesday, putting further pressure on the government. After last-minute consultations, the prime minister Édouard Philippe will give full details of the controversial changes to the country’s pension schemes at midday on Wednesday. As hardline union leaders vowed to continue striking indefinitely, there were warnings that the country was entering a dangerous period. Caroline Janvier, who entered parliament as one of Macron’s La République en Marche “citizen” MPs in the 2017 general election, denied the government … [Read more...] about No trains and no compromise as France faces a winter of discontent
The Hotel Meurice in Calais is rather decrepit these days but, with its reasonable rates, it has long appealed to English tourists. The problem is that English tourists – as anyone trying to make a living in Calais will tell you – have fled, fearful of migrants and the general chaos that has taken hold of the city. Monsieur Cossard, owner of the Hotel Meurice, would very much like to sell his business, but alas, nothing’s selling in Calais. He would also like to take bookings from the ranks of the riot police, 1,800 of whose officers are deployed around the tunnel and the port; welcome custom for the managers of chain hotels such as Ibis, Novotel, and Formule 1. But the people who make decisions about this kind of thing at the Ministry of the Interior must have viewed the genteel decrepitude of the Meurice – its faded toiles, rickety day beds, and dusty frills and flounces – ill-suited to the rugged image of the forces of law and order. A few months ago, … [Read more...] about ‘That thing gnawing away at all of us’: Calais and the shantytown on its doorstep
In a packed village hall in rural Normandy, hundreds of people cheered as a 70-year-old politician, hailed as the saviour of France, took the stage. “Our society is not well!” boomed Alain Juppé, the mayor of Bordeaux and an elder statesman. “France is disorientated, frightened, fractured and hatred is spreading, but I refuse to give in to the intellectuals who say the nation is in decline.” He railed against the far-right ideas and anti-immigration rhetoric that has come to dominate French politics. “France can bounce back,” he said. “We have to break this mood of suspicion and build a society of trust.” After a standing ovation, supporters rushed forward to shake his hand, jostling for selfies and autographs. This was “Juppémania”, France’s extraordinary new political phenomenon, an unexpected outpouring of emotion that could change the course of the 2017 presidential race. The centre-right Juppé, who … [Read more...] about Alain Juppé: from cold, grey automaton to saviour of France?
Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador is under sustained pressure to rethink his non-confrontational security strategy amid lingering questions over the botched arrest of a son of Joaquin “el Chapo” Guzmán. Ovidio Guzmán was briefly held in the northern city of Culiacán last month, but was freed after hundreds of gunmen launched a wave of attacks on security forces and blocked roads with burning vehicles. The show of strength shocked even the most hardened observers of organized crime in Mexico. Ismael Bojórquez, editor of the investigative Sinaloa weekly Río Doce described the moment as a watershed. “Life goes on, yes, but not in the same way,” he wrote in an editorial. “We don’t know if this will now be the reaction every time criminal groups feel threatened – and we know even less what the federal government intends to do about it.” But the president insists that the incident marks a … [Read more...] about Mexico’s president under pressure over ‘hugs not bullets’ cartel policy