Foreign Agencies on November 29th, 1996

Hopelessness Propels Serbians Into Streets
By John Pomfret
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, November 29, 1996; Page A35

BELGRADE, Nov. 28 -- In an oversize green felt hat and a cozy overcoat, cheeks pink and eyes bright, Dusica Zivanovic is everybody's grandma. But she is a grandmother with a mission -- to bring down the government of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

"Red bandits," howled Zivanovic, an instructor of electrical circuit theory, as she and thousands of other marchers passed the Ministry of Education building today on the 11th straight day of protests against Milosevic's rule. "Red bandits," she yelled repeatedly -- her voice cracking in the wintry air -- as the march approached Milosevic's office in central Belgrade.

"This government has destroyed our reputation around the world," Zivanovic, 55, declared as she trekked side by side with students half her age. "Yugoslavia, the Serbian people used to be respected. Now we are a pariah. We are poor. We have nothing left."

Poverty, hopelessness and a fatally wounded sense of pride have propelled tens of thousands of people onto the streets of Yugoslavia's capital and several other cities across Serbia, the country's dominant republic, for more than a week. The largely peaceful protests mark the biggest and most sustained challenge to Milosevic's rule since the Balkan strongman took power in 1987 and set this region on a course to war.
But the marches symbolize more than discontent with democracy Serbian-style. Many Serbs are deeply dissatisfied with the corrupt and inept system that has ruled their lives for the past nine years. Many protesters expressed belief that their country is unfixable as long as Milosevic and those around him maintain control of Yugoslavia, the federation now comprising only Serbia and Montenegro.

"I a.m. tired of living in a post-Communist society," said Milan, 19, a freshman in the electrical engineering department of Belgrade University. "I just want to live in a normal country. Is that so hard?"

Significantly, however, the protesters in Belgrade -- mostly students and white-collar workers, teachers, doctors, engineers and lawyers -- do not appear to be marching in support of anything specific, just against Milosevic's rule. Partly for that reason, and partly because of the government's strong police forces, the wave of protests is not expected to threaten Milosevic's hold on power.
In the six years during which Yugoslavia went from being one country to six, for example, Zivanovic's salary has fallen from more than $1,000 a month to less than $100 a month. A monthly electric bill in winter usually consumes her salary for the month. She gets by on money borrowed from her son and remittances from relatives abroad.

Students protest on streets of Belgrade
November 29, 1996 Web posted at: 10:05 p.m. EST (0250 GMT)

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Twelve days ago 23-year-old Biology student Srdja Popovic was celebrating his triumph as the youngest elected member of Belgrade city council. On Friday, he was marching down the streets of Yugoslavia's capital with tens of thousands of other demonstrators--mostly students-- with a mission to bring down the government of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

The protests, the biggest since 1991, were sparked by Milosevic's move to overturn the results of November 17 elections, which opposition political parties won in Belgrade and 14 other major cities throughout Yugoslavia, the federation now comprising only Serbia and Montenegro.

Carrying banners and shouting slogans: "Red bandits" and "Give us our victory back", students waved their red report cards and were greeted by workers on a downtown construction site as they passed by.

At the main city square, students hurled toilet paper at the building which houses the city's election committee headquarters.

In front of the Supreme Court building the rally halted for a moment to throw rotten eggs, then proceeded with the march. The protests that have swept the country are now in their 11th day.

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