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Clashes continue on crippled French Caribbean island

Video by FRANCE 24 , FRANCE 2 , Christophe BAUER

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-02-18

Police fired tear gas on roadblock-burning protesters in Guadeloupe late Monday, while looters smashed shops in the capital Pointe-a-Pitre. A month-long general strike has crippled the French Caribbean island.

Please read our reporters' notebook from Martinique



Watch our Face Off debate France: a revolt overseas?



Broken shop windows, burnt cars and road blocks… In the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe the “pacifist march” launched on January 20 turned sour on Monday and Tuesday as activists, thugs and police fought each other on the streets.

“We are on the brink of sedition. The [protest movement] is becoming more radical, more extreme,” said Victorin Lurel, a local Socialist MP in an interview on France Info. “It feels like there’s a power vacuum here, and a sort of indifference,” he added.

Overnight on Monday, violent incidents took place in several cities on the island. Masked thugs threw stones and Molotov cocktails on police forces. Eighteen people were detained.

“The [protesters] are young people from Guadeloupe who are desperate because neither the state and nor local authorities have managed to address the lack of jobs on the island,” said Elie Domota, leader of the LKP, a protest movement against fat profits and the spiralling cost of living. He says the clashes were “predictable”.

Heavy-handed evacuation of road blocks

On Monday, the authorities evacuated – sometimes during heavy-handed interventions –  LKP activists who had set up road blocks. About 50 protesters were briefly detained following demonstrations in front of the police station in the island’s main town of Pointe-à-Pitre.



Instead of staging yet another demonstration, as they had done for much of their month-long strike against high prices and low wages, protesters set up barricades on the island’s main roads. Despite their expedite evacuation, demonstrators once again blocked roads on Tuesday morning, in response to an LKP call to carry on the fight.

After a night of violent incidents, Nicolas Desforges, Guadeloupe prefect and the highest representative of the French state on the island, called on Domota to discuss “a call to calm.”

On Thursday, Nicolas Sarkozy will meet local overseas representatives and MPs to discuss the situation and try to find a solution to this exceptionally long conflict that has spread to other French overseas territories.

Date created : 2009-02-17