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Slovak farmers on tractors join anti-government protesters

By AFP
media Slovak farmers on tractors joined thousands of anti-government protesters in the capital Bratislava on Friday, in the latest of a string of demonstrations triggered by the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak who exposed alleged high-level corruption AFP

Slovak farmers on tractors joined thousands of anti-government protesters in the capital Bratislava on Friday, in the latest of a string of demonstrations triggered by the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak who exposed alleged high-level corruption.

Kuciak's murder and his last explosive report plunged the eurozone country of 5.4 million people into crisis, sparking weekly mass protests that forced the government to resign in March.

The article included allegations that several million euros in EU farm subsidies had been lost to fraud, mobilising farmers to demand transparent rules for land usage rights and the distribution of EU subsidies, among other issues.

Climbing down from their tractors, farmers handed out cauliflowers, carrots and potatoes to protesters thanking them for their support.

Hundreds of farmers from all over Slovakia drove their tractors into the capital on Tuesday in protest against alleged irregularities in EU farm subsidy payments first made public by Kuciak in a report on corruption and alleged ties between politicians and the Italian mafia.

Kuciak was gunned down in his home gang-land style in February as he was about to publish the allegations.

"Jan revealed how the powerful stole our land and sold it to the mafia," Kuciak's sister Maria wrote in a letter read out to protesters in central Bratislava.

"Shame, shame! Enough of Smer" the crowd began to chant, referring to the Social Democrat Smer-SD senior party in the governing coalition.

- 'Restore trust' -

Protesters rallying behind the "For a Decent Slovakia" initiative hit the streets on Friday for the eighth time since February.

They accused the leftist populist government of Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini of "failing to restore trust in the state and investigate the murder of Kuciak and his fiancee", according to their statement.

"The government has ignored us and our demands," one of the protesting farmers told protesters, estimated to number between 6,000-8,000, according to the local Dennik N daily.

Earlier on Friday, protesting farmers won backing from opposition parties for their formal Memorandum on Agriculture Reform that proposes mechanisms to guarantee transparency in the financial aspects of farming, including the allocation of EU farm subsidies.

Three governing parties including the Smer-SD, refused to attend Friday talks with farmers in Bratislava on their memorandum.

Prime Minister Pellegrini, however, vowed to meet farmers in early in eastern Slovakia.

"We have to leave to complete harvesting, but if lawmakers don't approve our memorandum in September, we'll be back. A lot more of us will be back,"farmer Patrik Magdosko told journalists on Friday in the capital.

 
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