Further clashes in French Caribbean over anti-Covid measures

Burning cars and roadblocks in Guadeloupe.
Burning cars and roadblocks in Guadeloupe. Photo: Christophe Archambault/AFP
Protesters in French overseas territories in the Caribbean opposing measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 clashed again with security forces on Tuesday as the Paris government vowed to restore order.

Security forces and firefighters came under fire in Martinique where a general strike got underway on Monday, a week after a similar shutdown began in Guadeloupe, police said. There were no casualties.

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

Barricades made of taxis or tyres have now also been set up on main highways in Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Anger over Covid measures including compulsory vaccination for healthworkers has fanned longstanding grievances in the French overseas territories, which are popular with moneyed tourists but where poverty levels are far higher than in mainland France.

As a result residents have long felt marginalised by the central government.

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Barricades made of burnt cars at Montebello roundabout in Petit-Bourg, Guadeloupe. Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

Vaccination rates in the territories trail those on the mainland with less than half the population jabbed against Covid on Guadeloupe, compared to nearly 80 percent of the entire population in mainland France.

“The situation is still very difficult” in Guadeloupe after over a week of unrest, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told France Inter radio.

“What is clear is that restoring public order is the precondition for any talks.”

A meeting on Monday chaired by Prime Minister Jean Castex failed to dampen anger in Guadeloupe.

“Of course we continue the mobilisation. We did not expect much from Castex and the Macron government, so we are not disappointed,” said Hilaire Luce, a demonstrator manning a barricade near Le Gosier on Guadeloupe, accusing the government of showing “contempt”.

Macron on Monday said that the crisis was “explosive” but vowed that the government would “not give in to lies, distorting of information and the exploitation by some people of this situation”.

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