Fires break out as Covid-19 unrest spreads across French Caribbean

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Protesters looted shops and erected burning barricades overnight on the Caribbean island of Martinique, France, France Info reported Thursday, as protests against Covid-19 protocols intensified as a result similar unrest in neighboring Guadeloupe.

France Info posted a video of protesters targeting a shopping center and fleeing with goods, as well as videos of protesters erecting burning barricades on roads.

The French Caribbean islands, Martinique and Guadeloupe, have been hit by unrest over the past week due to anger over measures in the Covid-19 protocol, such as measures to step up vaccinations on he is.

Covid-19 measures trigger a “social rebellion” in the French Caribbean

Security forces and firefighters reported coming under fire in Martinique where a general strike broke out on Monday, a week after a similar shutdown began in Guadeloupe. There have been no reports of casualties.

Gasoline bombs were thrown at police in Basse-Terre, the main city of Guadeloupe where some 90 people have been arrested in recent days, prosecutors said.

Barricades made of taxis or tires have now also been erected on the main roads of Martinique and they remain in place in Guadeloupe where a meeting chaired Monday by Prime Minister Jean Castex failed to calm the anger.

The Caribbean islands, known as the West Indies, are grappling with a new wave of coronavirus infections causing lockdowns and flight cancellations and overwhelming hospitals, just as tourism is starting to show signs recovery.

Tourism in Guadeloupe takes a hit as Covid-19 protests rage

Mandatory vaccination has fueled long-standing grievances in areas popular with wealthy tourists but where poverty levels are much higher than in mainland France.

Vaccination rates in the territories are lower than those of the metropolis with less than half of the population vaccinated against Covid-19 in Guadeloupe.

The protests mark a test for the government of President Emmanuel Macron, which has made much of the global footprint given to France by the overseas territories stretching from the Caribbean to the Pacific via the Indian Ocean.

Macron said earlier this week that the crisis was “explosive” but vowed that the government “will not give in to lies, distortion of information and exploitation by some people of this situation.”

The unrest comes at a sensitive time in France’s governance of its overseas territories, ahead of a third and final referendum later this month giving residents of New Caledonia’s Pacific territory a vote on independence .

The pro-independence forces have vowed to boycott the December 12 vote, creating possible tensions the day after the election.

(AXADLETM with REUTERS, AFP)

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