Authorities in the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe have extended a night curfew until Sunday as police try to restore calm after several nights of protests and violent clashes triggered by the Covid-19 rules but rooted in long-standing concerns over high living costs, low wages, youth unemployment and mistrust of the Paris government.
Shootings have been directed at the police in recent days, a general strike has entered its second week and many shops remained closed after nightly looting. The curfew requires people to be inside between 18.00 and 05.00.
In nearby Martinique, shots were fired at police for the second night in a row, French media reported on Wednesday, as a sign that unrest is spreading in France. The Caribbean overseas territories.
Roadblocks affected public transport and there were school closures in Martinique. Trade unions decided to lift their protest barricades, but some civic groups were expected to continue demonstrating on the roads.
People in Guadeloupe and Martinique have been outraged by a government demand – even on the mainland France – that all healthcare professionals should be vaccinated against Covid-19. Mandatory vaccination is a particularly sensitive issue in the two island territories due to significant mistrust of government science following a long-running health scandal over exposure to toxic pesticides used in banana plantations.
IN one of France’s largest health and safety scandals, the insecticide chordecone was used from 1973 to 1993 on banana plantations in Martinique and Guadeloupe, exposing a significant portion of the population to health hazards and related cancers and contaminated soil. The product was banned in the United States in 1976 and in France in 1990, but special provisions were made for its continued use in the Caribbean until 1993.
In Martinique, protesters demanded not only an end to the mandatory vaccination of medical staff but also measures to address high fuel prices.
The unrest represents a test for French President Emmanuel Macron, who has made much of the global footprint France has gained from overseas territories stretching across the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean via the Indian Ocean.
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said the Covid health pass was “non-negotiable” in the Caribbean. The passport, which shows that a person has been vaccinated or recently tested negative for Covid, is required in cafes, restaurants, libraries and other public buildings.
Opposition politicians from the left to the right have accused the government of being unprepared for the crisis in the Caribbean, which they said should have been prevented.
Right-wing extremist leader Marine Le Pen said: “The government always has the same method – let the situation worsen, as it did with yellow vest protesters, or over pensions, and wait until the violence that arises discredits the demands made. “