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France faces revolt over poverty on its Caribbean islands

  • Posted Feb. 17, 2009 by Miclaud Viewed 4262 times

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France faces revolt over poverty on its Caribbean islands

* Extracted from “The Guardian”, February 2009 (Angelique Chrisafis)

France is struggling to quell revolts on its Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, amid fears that strikes and street protests could spread to other French overseas departments.

Guadeloupe has been paralysed by four weeks of general strikes over low wages and the high cost of living. Tens of thousands have joined demonstrations led by the Collective against Extreme Exploitation (LKP), an umbrella group of unions and associations demanding aid for poor workers struggling to survive on an island famous for its tourist luxury.

Petrol stations and the port have been closed and barricaded, supermarkets, schools, banks and government offices have shut and the strikes have caused power cuts, limited water supplies and left the island's half-a-million residents facing food shortages.

At the peak of the island's tourist season - a driving force of the local economy - hotels have closed and charter flights have been cancelled. About 15,000 French tourists have cancelled their holiday plans and Club Méditerranée has shut its main hotel. The nearby island of Martinique has joined forces and staged a week of protests, with demonstrators storming supermarkets and forcing them to close.

Both islands form part of France. Run from Paris, their citizens are French and the currency is the euro. But the protestors say Paris has ignored their plight in the global financial crisis, and families are struggling to survive on an expensive island where poverty and unemployment levels are double those on the French mainland.

France's minister for overseas territories, Yves Jégo, arrived in the Caribbean yesterday to launch a second round of emergency talks with mediators. His swift departure after his first crisis visit last week caused outrage on the island.

Meanwhile, unions in France's other two “Overseas Departments”, French Guiana and the Indian ocean island of La Réunion, threatened to launch their own protest movements, saying they suffered the same misery and low wages.

Before negotiations began, Elie Domota, the leader of the LKP on Guadeloupe, said the group would “harden” its position and strikes would continue. Domota said that by refusing to increase basic salaries, the French prime minister, François Fillon, was bowing to the interests of business leaders who “did not want to spend a cent”.

Jégo said France would give some €180m (£161m) in aid to ensure lower fuel costs and food prices and help poor families. But the prime minister refused to meet demands for a monthly €200 increase in base salaries.

George Pau-Langevin, a Paris socialist MP born in Guadeloupe, said islanders were not just protesting at low wages, but at “the indecent profits of big fuel and import-export companies”.

Patrick Lozès, the head of Cran, France's umbrella group of black associations, said race and discrimination was a key factor in the revolt. “Is it normal that, 160 years after the abolition of slavery, the descendants of colonists possess 90% of Guadeloupe's riches, but represent only 1% of the population?” he asked on his blog.

In Paris, opposition politicians criticised President Nicolas Sarkozy for his lack of involvement in resolving the crisis. Sarkozy, facing strikes and demonstrations by teachers and university staff across France, has seen his poll ratings plummet this week amid public fears about the impact of the global financial crisis, and unions have scheduled another national strike for 19 March.

The political representatives support the strike.

“Where we find unfortunates, there are exploiters.
Where there is a poverty, there are ”békés“ thieves
The Negro is tired to suffer
Together, it's time to fight hard
Let us get up to be stronger!”

The youth

A strong mobilization: 20 000 persons of all generations

The distribution of fuel is controlled

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    There are 30 comments, add yours!

    • # Jon

      great photo journalism ... the world recession is hurting everyone everwhere

      2009.02.27 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Jacquesr

      Excellent reportage, avec des messages forts.
      J'aime beaucoup les messages de la jeunesse.
      Bravo Miclaud.

      2009.02.19 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Neus

      Miclaud, aquí no nos llega notícia alguna sobre los acontecimientos de las islas caribeñas, así que gracias por tenernos informados, aunque como Sista, me es muy difícil comprender el texto en inglés.

      2009.02.18 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Christine

      C'est quelque chose que j'ai de la peine à comprendre, comment celà se fait-il que le tourisme n'apporte pas plus de bien être à la population ? Où vont les bénéfices ? Et que font les gouvernements pour améliorer la situation ?

      En pensées avec vous

      2009.02.18 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Jon Laysell

      Bonne chance à la population. Je vais à la France de demain. Je vais vous faire savoir s'il existe une action de soutien en Boulougne. Je parie qu'il ne l'est pas.

      2009.02.18 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Nadoune

      Beau reportage Miclaud!!!
      Chez moi ça a dégénéré et c'est vraiment triste!!!

      2009.02.18 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Sylrun

      merci pour le reportage, en anglais an pa compren ayen mais j'ai compris l'affiche en Kréol sur la 1è!

      2009.02.18 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Betty

      Wow...excellent reporting. I had no idea those conditions existed. Thanks for the lesson.

      2009.02.18 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Domã©Lia

      beau reportage qui reflète bien la réalité.. pour le texte, bravo (enfin je suppose car comme christelle, je te fais confiance...)

      2009.02.18 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Christelle

      Super reportage Miclaud !!! euh j'ai pas tout lu les commentaires in english,c'est un peu forçant pour moi mais je suppose que ce sont des infos que les 972 ont déjà...

      2009.02.18 Edited Reply Cancel