Police fired tear gas at young protesters after they set fire to cars overnight on the French island of La Reunion, in the Indian Ocean, which has been hit by a spate of protests and labour strikes over rising living costs.
Reuters - Police fired teargas at youths after they torched cars overnight on Wednesday on the French island of La Reunion, which has been hit by protests and strikes over the high cost of living.
One gendarme was seriously injured by gunshot during the violence in Le Chaudron area of the Indian Ocean island's capital Saint-Denis, police said. Clashes also took place in the town of Le Port, some 20 km (12 miles) away.
Youths torched cars and bus stops and began looting a supermarket in Le Chaudron, leading police to fire teargas at them and chase them around the area late into the night. Police made about 20 arrests.
La Reunion is the latest of three French overseas territories where protests over high prices have boiled over into violence, raising fears that exasperation could spread to mainland France.
The Caribbean island of Guadeloupe was shaken by six weeks of general strike and demonstrations until unions and authorities signed an agreement to hike low wages and reduce prices of staple items on March 5. A unionist was shot dead in one of several violent incidents during the Guadeloupe troubles.
Strikes and protests started later in neighbouring Martinique and are ongoing despite a wage and price deal, similar to the Guadeloupe agreement, signed on Tuesday. There too, cars have been torched and roadblocks set up on the fringes of the peaceful demonstrations.
Guadeloupe, Martinique and La Reunion are all full parts of France that elect legislators who sit in the national parliament in Paris, but the average incomes there are much lower than on the mainland while prices are higher due to the cost of imports.
In La Reunion, the COSPAR alliance of unions that has been organising the protests called on Tuesday for tough action such as the forced closure of supermarkets to reinforce its movement. After the overnight violence, one of COSPAR's spokesmen called on Radio Reunion for such actions to stop.
The incidents took place at a time when the protest movement seemed to be losing momentum among the general population. Between 5,000 and 10,000 people took part in demonstrations on Tuesday, but that was about three times fewer than on the previous day of action, March 5.
Date created : 2009-03-11