- Guadeloupe - Martinique - Nicolas Sarkozy - petrol - strike
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has offered to earmark up to 580 million euros for France’s four overseas departments, including the restive islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.
Sarkozy proposed a “vast plan of modernisation" for the territories and said he would plan a visit to Guadeloupe to open a round of consultations following talks in Paris today with envoys from the island.
Guadeloupe and, to a lesser extent, Martinique have seen weeks of demonstrations against rising living costs. Widespread strikes have led to fuel and food shortages, further inflaming discontent among the population.
Following all-night negotiations, French Prime Minister François Fillon announced on Thursday that Paris would offer a wage hike to low-income earners of almost 200 euros a month, in accordance with union demands.
Guadeloupe’s Collective Against Exploitation (LKP), a coalition of unions and leftist groups, launched a general strike against the soaring cost of living in Guadeloupe on Jan. 20. The protesting unions demanded a monthly wage rise of 200 euros for low-paid workers.
Five shotgun rounds were fired at security forces but no one was injured, according to local police authorities. A shop and a car in Pointe-a-Pitre were also reportedly set ablaze and four people arrested nearby.
At least 33 people were arrested overnight, some of whom were carrying weapons, according to the local administration.
Violence escalated after Jacques Bino, a union activist, was shot dead in his car overnight on Tuesday after leaving a LKP meeting in Pointe-a-Pitre.
Sarkozy denounced Bino's "assassination" after his meetings with envoys from Guadeloupe on Thursday.
More than 2,000 people -- headed by union coalition leader Domota -- participated in a silent street march on Wednesday in tribute to Bino, the first fatality of the violence. They marched from the union buildings to the place where he was killed.
“The mood is sombre,” said FRANCE 24’s Eve Irvine, reporting from Pointe-a-Pitre late on Wednesday. “Rather than wanting to end the strike because of his death, union members are now even more motivated to carry on the strike,” she added.
The social unrest has spread to the neighbouring island of Martinique, where unions launched a strike on Feb. 5, demanding higher wages and a lower cost for basic goods. Most shops, cafes, banks, schools and government offices have been shut on the two islands for the past few weeks, dealing a blow to the popular holiday destinations’ vital tourism industry.
The recent tensions in Guadeloupe and Martinique have also exposed race and class divisions on the island, where the local white elite wields power over the black majority.