Protesters from French overseas territories in the Caribbean opposing measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 clashed with security forces again on Tuesday as the Paris government pledged to restore order. The French authorities have extended the curfew imposed on the island of Guadeloupe until November 28.
Die-hard opponents of measures that include the compulsory vaccination of health workers on the island of Guadeloupe have erected barricades of burning tires while in Martinique, the police have been the target of gunfire.
Anger over the Covid measures imposed by Paris has fueled long-standing grievances in areas popular with wealthy tourists but where poverty levels are much higher than in mainland France.
As a result, residents have long felt marginalized by the central government.
Vaccination rates in the territories are lower than those in the metropolis with less than half of the population bitten against the Covid 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.
“The situation is still very difficult” in Guadeloupe after more than a week of unrest, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told France Inter radio. “What is clear is that the restoration of law and order is the prerequisite for any talk.”
General strike in progress in Martinique
Security forces and firefighters came under fire in Martinique where a general strike was called Monday, a week after the start of a similar shutdown in Guadeloupe, police said. There were no 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.
“Of course we are continuing the mobilization. We weren’t expecting much from the Castex and the Macron government, so we are not disappointed,” said Hilaire Luce, a protester holding a barricade near Le Gosier in Guadeloupe, accusing the government to show “contempt.” .
Macron said on Monday that the crisis was “explosive” but vowed that the government “will not give in to lies, distortion of information and the 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 offering 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 AFP)