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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
08CAIRO930
2008-05-05 14:15:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Cairo
Cable title:  

MAY 4 STRIKE FIZZLES

Tags:   ELAB  PGOV  PREL  KDEM  ECON  EG 
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VZCZCXRO5457
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0930 1261415
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 051415Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9166
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
						UNCLAS CAIRO 000930 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NSC FOR PASCUAL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PGOV PREL KDEM ECON EG
SUBJECT: MAY 4 STRIKE FIZZLES

REF: A. CAIRO 783

B. CAIRO 862

Sensitive but unclassified. Not for internet distribution.



1. (SBU) Summary: The general strike called for May 4 to
protest rocketing inflation and low wages was largely a
non-event. Activists from Kefaya ("The Egyptian Movement for
Change") and virtual oppositionists using the social
networking site Facebook called for the strike (scheduled
purposefully on President Mubarak's eightieth birthday) as a
follow on to an April 6 strike, which resulted in noticeably
quieting Cairo's busy streets, and coincided with riots in
the Nile Delta milltown of Mahalla (reftels). While a
Facebook group calling for the May 4 strike attracted almost
75,000 members, the virtual activists were not able this time
to translate their online rhetoric into a real-world work
stoppage. End summary.



2. (SBU) May 4 was a normal day in Cairo, albeit with a
noticeably heightened security presence throughout the city.
The independent media reported on small-scale protests in
front of the Lawyer's Syndicate, and the Muslim Brotherhood's
(MB) website claimed that absenteeism reached eighty-percent
at Al Azhar University's theological colleges (we are unable
to verify this figure). There were also press reports of
small protests of Nasserite party-affiliated students at
Assiyut University, in southern Egypt. Mahalla, scene of
violent rioting on April 6 and 7, was an "armed camp" on May
4, according to the independent press and bloggers, with GOE
security forces patrolling in large numbers to ensure a
scheduled "silent protest" did not occur.



3. (SBU) The MB, which had previously announced it would
participate in the May 4 strike, quickly declared the strike
"a success even before it started." MB Deputy Supreme Guide
Mohamed Habib, noting President Mubarak's April 30
announcement of a thirty percent raise in public sector
salaries, progress in shortening bread lines, and the release
of several detainees directly prior to the strike, said that,
"The strike has achieved some of its desired objectives,
despite the limited public participation." Habib also
alleged, "But for the MB's endorsement of the strike, the
executive would never have hastened to take these measures."
One secular civil society activist speculated to us that the
MB's support for the strike may have actually reduced
participation, as many more liberal potential strikers feared
the MB would take the credit for a large-scale event. A
statement posted by the administrators of the strike's
Facebook website claimed that the strike was successful: "The
strike succeeded because we achieved our main goal - to
inform ordinary citizens of their rights."



4. (SBU) Comment: The calculated timing of Mubarak's
announcement of the salary increase (originally planned for
May 5, but subsequently changed to April 30, once the May 4
strike was announced), and the government's clear willingness
to arrest online activists (as occurred to several supporters
of the April 6 strike), drained the oxygen from the May 4
endeavor. The GOE's well-practiced carrot and stick tactics
seem to have derailed Facebook's budding political activism,
at least for the time being. However, with bread prices
still on the rise, and gas and cigarette prices set to
increase substantially in order to finance the thirty percent
government pay raise, simmering public anger at the
government is not likely to ease.

SCOBEY