January 22, 1999 – Situation In Bucharest
January 22, 1999 – Most eyes were on Bucharest this day. Between 7,000 and 10,000 demonstrators armed with Molatov cocktails, clubs and shovels clashed with riot police and special interior ministry forces and twice broke through concrete-reinforced barricades to continue their march today. President Emil Constantinescu threatened to establish martial law and unleash military forces if the miners did not stop their march. Thousands of police with armored reinforcements were reportedly concentrating to stop the marchers. However, with the miners prepared to defy martial law and government concern that a bloody confrontation would provoke wider social unrest, Constantinescu decided to let his deadline pass and give Prime Minister RaduVasile more time to work out an agreement with the miners’ leaders.
The Romanian government was under pressure from the IMF and World Bank to restructure the economy and close down a large portion of its unprofitable industries, including mining. Vasile’s austerity plan, worked out in exchange for IMF funding, involved closing 140 coal mines. Western financial institutions had been impatient with the pace of economic restructuring, first carried out by Ion Iliescu, the Stalinist successor of the ousted dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, and then by more right-wing governments. The economy continued to shrink at the rate of 5 to 8 percent a year, and the government was trying to avoid defaulting on its debts.
Tense situation on the streets of Bucharest and a whiff of revolution in the air.
In other news – The crisis in the Serbian Province of Kosovo was flaring up. In London, five Western powers and Russia were meeting to discuss the crisis, and for once they were discussing political solutions rather than military ones.
In India there was growing concern over sexual abuse of children by members of their own families. A scandal certain to reveal much more in the coming days and weeks.
A second member of the International Olympic Committee resigned amid allegations of bribery connected with the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002.
And so much more, crammed into a full 60 minutes of news by way of the BBC World Service and their nightly program News Hour.