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France empty, which explains the ‘yellow vests’

The city of Nevers offers by far the illustration of the douce France, France sweet and timeless: the bell tower of the cathedral, the narrow streets of the tow

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France empty, which explains the ‘yellow vests’

The city of Nevers offers by far the illustration of the douce France, France sweet and timeless: the bell tower of the cathedral, the narrow streets of the town centre with its shops and its restaurants, the countryside deep to ten minutes.

From the banks of the Loire, the profile idyllic this city of 35,000 inhabitants and 250 kilometres south of Paris, it can lead to confusion. Nevers and its region are one of the places where it has emerged the revolt of the yellow vests, the French tired of paying taxes and the cuts in public services.

—Look at that house out. A person lives more. You need to make kilometres to go shopping. Do you realize how much you spend on diesel?

PRICE GASÓIL

Euros per liter, and part in taxes, in percentage. To 26-11-2018

Source: European Commission. THE COUNTRY

Michel takes six months in unemployment and two weeks bet on a roundabout next to the motorway a-77. Wearing a yellow vest, the garment fluorescent necessarily carry the cars. The vest is the symbol of a movement that broke out three weeks ago as a protest of motorists against increase of rates to the fuel. Now claim much more. The glue between all of them is the rejection, at times visceral, the president and Emmanuel Macron.

How many yellow vests, Michel distrusts the press —be foreign press makes it easy— and do not want to disclose her last name. He and other activists have built a wooden hut in the centre of the roundabout. Control the passage of cars and trucks, and repeat.

“I get 900 euros from the unemployment insurance. When you pay all your bills already, there is nothing”, he explains. “And I have two children, six and three years.” He has 31.

Before you was a gardener. His wife makes cleaning tasks. The stop is just at the end of the year. You will then receive the social assistance of 652 euros a month.

SOCIAL SPENDING

In percentage of GDP

Source: OECD. THE COUNTRY

A territory sparsely populated. A precarious situation in which millions of French people are afraid to fall. A handful of French angry at a checkpoint improvised.

The movement of the yellow vests are spread all over the country. It is the France of small towns and medium-sized, and rural France, where the automobile is a working tool, and for many of survival and where the closing of a medical consultation or the train line are a sentence of ostracism.

There is a geopolitics of the yellow vests. The department of the Nièvre, Nevers is the capital, was the 17th of November —first Saturday of concentrations— was the largest density of yellow vests with respect to the total population, according to the calculations of the demographer Hervé Le Bras on the basis of the available data. Le Bras overlaid on the map of the yellow vests to two others: that of the departments which lose population, and which reflects the remoteness of the services of daily life.

The three maps correspond to draw a corridor that crosses France from north-east to south-west: departments with high density of yellow vests, a drop in population and geographical isolation. The strip coincides with what the geographer Roger Brunet called in the eighties the Klasbahis diagonal of the vacuum. Installed on diagonal vacuum —France empty to paraphrase retake the title of the essay by Sergio del Molino on the Spain depopulated— are the Nièvre and Nevers.

You could add other maps. For example, the Nièvre has an unemployment rate of 7.7%, lower than the national average of 8.7%. And this department has not been until now a stronghold of the extreme-right Front National (FN) and its successor, the Rassemblement National, although advances election to election.

THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE REVOLT IN FRANCE

Source: Hervé le Bras/Roger Brunet. THE COUNTRY

“certainly there are people politicized in the movement, but neither the geography nor the frequency of yellow vests, not its slogans belong to a political color,” says Le Bras, in reference to the yellow vests.

The journey from the roundabout next to the A-77, where they are protesting the yellow vests, to the center of Nevers, is brief. Circulating cars with the yellow vest to the windshield. Is the mark of a solidarity that goes beyond the activists mobilized. Of the country's rural areas to the old town takes 15 minutes. In the middle, the roads, interrupted by traffic circles and fast-food restaurants, car dealers, shopping malls.

The landscape of the deep France has an air that is deep America. With a substantial difference. This is one of the countries that are most egalitarian, with a social network that leaves a few in the gutter and disparities mitigated by redistributive policies. Nor is France the united States nor the Nièvre are the Midwest. And Nevers is not Detroit, despite the fact that the weekly Paris Match, for outrage of many local, titrate this week, a report on “Nevers, city of dead”.

Paris Match part of an undeniable reality: that of the descent of the population and the closure of shops. A walk through some of the most central streets offer a succession of storefronts are abandoned or dilapidated. A report of the Ministry of Economy, published in 2016, compared with Nevers as one of the four cities medium-sized French with more empty stores, about 22% of the total. The migration from the seventies to the residential neighborhoods of the suburbs, accompanied by the construction of macrocentros trade, contributed to the decline.

“no way Nevers is a city of the dead," replies Jean-Luc Dechauffour, bookseller, president of the merchants association and tireless advocate of the stores proximity to the hypermarkets in the periphery. Dechauffour share with others the sense of injustice by the grim image that, from Paris, sometimes from their city. Argues that it has reversed the decline. Hasbla in the seat of the barber shop, The Manufacture while will cut the hair. It could be a barber shop, a neighborhood hipster Paris or New York, the other face of a France of the provinces also dynamic, where not only close the trades. Before this city and this department would vote socialist; now to Macron. For how long?

INEQUALITY

GINI Index. On a scale of 0 ( highest inequality) to 100 (lowest inequality)

Source: World Bank. THE COUNTRY

The Nièvre was the fief of François Mitterrand. Harold Blanot grew up under the myth Mitterrand in a village near Château-Chinon, where the president was mayor between 1959 and 1981. Blanot is today one of the leaders of the Rassemblement National in the department.“Since I began [the protest movement], I asked our voters to participate, but without a flag,” he explains. “The porosity between the yellow vests and us is very strong.” Every crisis is an opportunity.

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