Since November 2021 the French Antilles have been rocked by large-scale political protests, with demonstrations, strikes and barricades. Popular anger is directed at the state: shots have been fired at the police, occasionally with military weapons; customs premises and a gun shop have been looted, a supermarket, shops and cars burned. The French government sent in elite police units, but in Guadeloupe protesters occupied the regional legislature for two days in December, and on 4 January occupied the Pointe-à-Pitre hospital and beat up its director.
Three factors have led to this crisis. The first is popular protests against the Covid pass, which people claim ‘makes life hell’, and healthcare professionals refusing mandatory Covid vaccination. People remember the chlordecone scandal, and again believe the government is trying to poison them; chlordecone (marketed as Kepone in the US) was an insecticide used on banana plantations in 1972-93, causing prostate and (reportedly) breast cancers, premature births and development issues in infants. For years the French government ignored WHO warnings of its carcinogenic potential (issued as early as 1979), and more than 90% of Guadeloupeans and Martiniquans were exposed.
This is like a third world country: we have problems with our drinking water and half our young people are unemployed
The second factor is the rising prices of petrol and bottled gas for cooking, which have increased the cost of living. Last is the feeling that the French Antilles are treated like colonies. Guadeloupe and Martinique are in fact departments— part of metropolitan France itself — but the local population tend to forget this and have a deep-seated resentment of the Béké (white Creoles).
They see the huge profits made by local supermarkets — mostly owned by a Béké-founded group — as exploitation of inherited privilege. This oligopoly (which the authorities have failed to (…)
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