Interior Minister Vladimír Palko has moved over 2000 policemen to eastern Slovakia to calm down the social turmoil caused by the Roma looting of food stores and protests against the recent decrease in social benefits, the daily SME wrote.
It is the largest police operation since 1989, the year of the Velvet Revolution.
Palko also has requested that Defence Minister Juraj Liška get the army involved in protecting private property in eastern Slovakia. The cabinet agreed to send 1000 soldiers to the affected locations.
According to the police, the Roma are using the tactic of sending women and children to steal from the stores because the police do not want to hurt children.
Slovak President Rudolf Schuster lashed out at the Dzurinda cabinet for what he calls its inability to handle the situation of the Roma social situation.
He claims that the social tensions result from tough economic measures. The president warned that the store looting could grow into serious social turmoil all around Slovakia.
On February 24, the police detained 126 Roma suspected of stealing, disorderly conduct, and attacking a public official. Of them, 55 were taken into custody.
The bad social situation of Slovakia's Roma community can in no way serve as an excuse for breaking the law, the European Parliament rapporteur for Slovakia, Jan Marinus Wiersma, told the TASR news wire.
Groups of Roma looted several stores last week, and a protest by several hundred Roma in Trebišov (Košice region) on February 23 turned aggressive when police tried to break it up. The retreating demonstrators threw bottles and stones and caused damage to several facilities and two police cars.
Compiled by Beata Balogová from press reports
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.
25. Feb 2004 at 9:46