'It's becoming like Chicago': the slide into despair and fear of a once-thriving small French town

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By nature Marylène Galy is an energetic woman. Working six-and-a-half days a week in her store, she needs to be. But on November 29th her enthusiasm for her job received a blow when, in the middle of the afternoon, two hooded robbers armed with a hunting rifle came into the tobacconist store she runs in Lavelanet in southern France. The pair got away with a meagre haul of one hundred euros and three packets of cigarettes and no one was hurt.