Reports

  • Angry French firefighters raise the alarm

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    The charred remains of a forest close to Bormes-les-Mimosas, southern France, after wildfires in late July 2017. © Reuters The charred remains of a forest close to Bormes-les-Mimosas, southern France, after wildfires in late July 2017. © Reuters

    Huge forest fires in the north of the French Mediterranean island of Corsica this weekend destroyed more than 2,000 hectares (about 5,000 acres) of vegetation, as blazes continue to unfold in southern France amid exceptionally dry conditions. In late July, an estimated 7,500 hectares of countryside were devastated by wildfires, mostly in the Provence region, stretching the fire services to their limit. While President Emmanuel Macron and his prime minister, Edouard Philippe, have heaped praise on the efficiency and courage of France’s firefighters, many of the latter are angry that the country’s fire services are depleted by budget cuts, with insufficient and ageing equipment and a shortfall in their numbers. Elsa Sabado travelled to the Var département, the worst hit by the wildfires, to hear their complaints.

  • Palavas-les-Flots, a French seaside resort heading under water

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    Palavas-les-Flots is a popular seaside resort in the Languedoc region of southern France, one of several built up during a government-driven programme launched in the 1960s to develop tourism along western Mediterranean seaboard. But the town, like others in the region, now faces future disaster from the slow but certain rise in the level of the sea and coastal erosion exacerbated by mass tourism. Mediapart environment correspondent Jade Lindgaard reports from Palavas-les-Flots.

  • Fordlandia: utopian industrial dream in the Amazon

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    One of the old Fordlandia warehouses. © Thomas Cantaloube One of the old Fordlandia warehouses. © Thomas Cantaloube

    Ninety years ago the American car magnate Henry Ford created a town in the Amazon jungle in order to secure a supply of rubber for his vehicles' tyres. Today it is just a ghost town, another example of the hubris so commonly associated with this region of the world. Mediapart's Thomas Cantaloube reports from Brazil on whether the lessons of that failed venture have truly been learned.

  • Leftist Mélenchon wears velvet glove to reach French election knockout round

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    With just days to go before the first round of the French presidential elections, radical-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon is mounting a serious challenge to the frontrunners, with opinion polls this week placing him neck-and-neck against conservative candidate François Fillon, and ever closer to the far-right’s Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron, the longstanding favourites now losing ground. Christophe Gueugneau followed the firebrand’s last major meeting this week, when Mélenchon, who wants to install a Sixth Republic with stronger powers for parliament, a system of regular referenda, and a renegotiation of EU treaties, attempted to reassure voters that he is not the anti-democratic revolutionary his detractors claim him to be.

  • Tales from the riverbank: how Kinshasa's once-mighty port on the Congo is dying

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    A view of Kinshasa on the River Congo, 2016. © Reuters A view of Kinshasa on the River Congo, 2016. © Reuters

    It was claimed – and hoped - that the River Congo would one day be the gateway to the country's prosperity. But with corruption rife, trade in decline and salaries going unpaid, the main port that serves the Democratic Republic of the Congo's capital city Kinshasa is today slowly rusting and dying. Pierre Benetti visited this once-thriving commercial hub and met those now trying to make ends meet along the banks of one of the world's largest rivers.

  • French rail workers refuse to join 'migrant hunt'

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    A migrant heading to France from Italy along railway tracks out of Ventimiglia. © LF A migrant heading to France from Italy along railway tracks out of Ventimiglia. © LF

    The Riviera coastal area in south-east France surrounding the border with Italy has become a major crossing point for migrants from Africa and the Middle East trying to reach northern Europe.  Despite a crackdown on the clandestine crossings by French and Italian police, many migrants continue to attempt the journey, either by by train or the perilous route of railway tracks, despite a series of fatal and serious accidents. French rail employees are increasingly under pressure from both their company and the police to help with the hunt for the migrants. Louise Fessard met with railwaymen who refuse to collaborate with operations that one described as resembling scenes from the WWII German occupation.

  • Implosion looms for French socialists as 'irreconcilable' presidential candidates head for knock-out vote

    Manuel Valls (left) and Benoît Hamon. © Reuters Manuel Valls (left) and Benoît Hamon. © Reuters

    The first round of the French Socialist Party’s primaries to choose its candidate for this spring’s presidential  elections saw leftist former education minister Benoît Hamon arrive in the lead, followed in second place by Manuel Valls, on the party’s Right and who last month resigned as prime minister to take part in the race. Hamon now has a significant chance of winning the second and final round between the two men to be held next Sunday. But whatever the result, the deeply divided Socialist Party faces implosion. Mathieu Magnaudeix and Christophe Gueugneau followed the two camps as the results unfolded during Sunday evening. 

  • France's socialist militants ponder party's future

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    Local party members at Roubaix in northern France watch the first socialist primary debate on January 12th 2017. © Amélie Poinssot Local party members at Roubaix in northern France watch the first socialist primary debate on January 12th 2017. © Amélie Poinssot

    Last Thursday the seven candidates in the Socialist Party's primary to choose a presidential candidate took part in the first of three televised debates. Mediapart joined a group of party members watching the first debate at Roubaix near Lille in northern France, which is historically one of the staunchest of socialist strongholds in France. As Amélie Poinssot discovered, many grassroots activists are still hopeful the party can be rebuilt despite the massive disappointment of François Hollande's presidency.

  • Activist on trial for 'pinching' a French bank's chairs to highlight tax evasion

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    Protesters in Dax, south-west France, turned the trial into an attack on tax evasion. Protesters in Dax, south-west France, turned the trial into an attack on tax evasion.

    An activist has gone on trial in a town in south-west France for having “requisitioned” some chairs from a bank. Jon Palais and others took the chairs as part of a wider protest against tax evasion and the use of tax havens which costs France billions of euros a year. The bank in question, BNP Paribas, took exception to the protest and made a formal complaint over their “stolen” chairs. But as Dan Israel reports, the legal complaint backfired as Palais and his supporters turned the trial into a media event in which the bank's own actions were held up to scrutiny.

  • Arbitration award to French tycoon was 'scandalous', Lagarde trial told

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    A former top French civil servant told the judges in the trial of IMF boss Christine Lagarde how he had tried to meet the then-economy minister to stop her from agreeing to an arbitration process that eventually cost French taxpayers 403 million euros. Ex-Treasury official Bruno Bézard said not only was holding the arbitration in the first place a blunder, it had been a mistake not to have appealed against its 2008 ruling in favour of tycoon Bernard Tapie. Mediapart's legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan says it was a tough day in court for Lagarde, who denies negligence in signing off on the arbitration process while a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's government.