Sunday, November 28

French West Indies: eruption of violence and gunfire on the police

Martinique and Guadeloupe, two islands in the French Antilles, are shaken by a social movement and protest against health measures which was quickly punctuated by violence, including shooting against the police during the night from Monday to Tuesday. .

The movement to protest against compulsory vaccination against Covid-19 for nursing staff and firefighters was launched on November 15 in Guadeloupe, with a call for a general strike by a collective of trade union and citizen organizations. These organizations are also calling for an increase in wages and social minimums and a fall in fuel and gas prices.

It degenerated the following days, with barricades, looting of shops, fires and even the theft of weapons and ammunition from a Customs coast guard station in Pointe-à-Pitre.

Martinique got into gear a week later, Monday, with protesters blocking the island’s main roads in particular.

On the night of Monday to Tuesday, police and firefighters were the target of gunfire in Fort-de-France, without any injuries, according to a police source, but also in Guadeloupe, according to the Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin.

“The situation is still very difficult,” said this last Tuesday.

But, he warned, “what is certain is that the restoration of public order is the prerequisite for any discussion”.

The day before, in an attempt to break the deadlock, the French government had announced the creation of a “forum for dialogue” to “support” caregivers and firefighters opposed to compulsory vaccination.

According to Sébastien Lecornu, Minister for Overseas Territories, the violence is the act of “people who are unfortunately already unfavorably known to the police or the courts, who are using this crisis to express themselves in violence”.

– A pervasive poverty –

According to the French authorities, more than 90 arrests and more than 60 police custody have taken place since the start of the crisis. 250 police and gendarmes were sent in as reinforcements and a curfew was established from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. local time.

For Mr Lecornu, this is not “a health and social issue”.

President Emmanuel Macron had already denounced Monday those who use “the health of French women and men to wage political battles”.

But the leader of the radical left Jean-Luc Mélenchon estimated that the “bottom line” was “the exasperation against the state of abandonment”.

Guadeloupe and Martinique are two French departments struck, like the other overseas departments, by marked poverty and an unemployment rate higher than that of the metropolis.

In Guadeloupe, 34.5% of the population lives below the national poverty line, with a high unemployment rate (19%), according to data from the National Institute of Statistics (Insee).

Martinique is certainly the overseas region least affected by unemployment (12.4% in 2020) and poverty, but it is also “very present”: “the poverty rate is 29, 8% in 2018, nearly twice as much as at the national level “, with greater inequalities in living standards than in mainland France, according to INSEE.

Moreover, in these islands, opposition to vaccines reflects, according to sociologists, the distrust of the population towards the authorities since the “chlordecone scandal”. Considered as an endocrine disruptor and probable carcinogen, this pesticide, banned in France in 1990, remained authorized in the banana fields of Martinique and Guadeloupe by ministerial exemption until 1993, causing significant and lasting pollution.

But since Guadeloupe was hit hard last summer by the epidemic, the vaccination rate has increased.

It now reaches nearly 90% among caregivers and approaching 50% in the general population – far from the more than 75% of vaccinated in metropolitan France.

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