LES MUREAUX, France – French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron thinks he has the magic tool for liberating blighted suburbs from their trap of poverty, violence and discrimination: turn jobless youth and drug dealers into legitimate entrepreneurs.
The hurdles are high. Disillusioned residents of housing project in towns like Les Mureaux, west of Paris, are deeply skeptical of campaign promises and the political elite. French presidents have tried for decades to fix the suburbs, and repeatedly failed.
But that's not deterring Macron, increasingly labeled by polls as the front-runner in France's two-round April 23-May 7 election. He played with schoolchildren and huddled with community activists this week in Les Mureaux, where housing projects bustle with people of Arab and African origin, where joblessness is high and voter turnout low.