Saturday, February 15, 2014
PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Police in Montenegro fired tear gas and stun grenades Saturday to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing protesters who were blaming the government for high unemployment, economic mismanagement and alleged corruption, and demanding its resignation.
The protests were called by an informal Facebook group that asked Montenegrins to voice solidarity with Bosnian anti-government demonstrators who earlier this month stormed into the country's presidency and other government buildings in Sarajevo and torched them over similar demands.
In Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, at least nine riot policemen were injured in the clashes with the demonstrators, many of them wearing masks to conceal their identities. At least 20 demonstrators were detained during the violence, which erupted when some 300 protesters tried to march toward the downtown government headquarters.
"Bosnia has taken to the streets. What are we waiting for?" the organizers said on their Facebook page. "Tens of thousands of unemployed, hungry and robbed people should take justice into their own hands!"
"We can't pay our 500 euros electricity bills with 100 euros (monthly) salaries," protest organizer Ljubo Varagic said.
Montenegro, a tiny Adriatic Sea state of 600,000 people, and neighboring Bosnia were part of the former six-republic Yugoslavia that broke up during civil wars in the 1990s. Montenegro has been run for the past 25 years by Milo Djukanovic, now the prime minister, who has shifted several times from premier to president and back again.
"I think that the corrupt elite, led by Djukanovic, should end up in jail," said Marko Milacic, one of the demonstrators. "The mother of all demands is that Djukanovic leaves power after 25 years."
Montenegro's economy, heavily hit by the Yugoslav wars and wartime U.N. sanctions, is mostly based on tourism. It is in the in process of transition as the country seeks European Union membership.
Djukanovic, his family and ministers have often been accused of corruption.
AP Balkan Correspondent Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.