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France

Sarkozy visits Martinique and Guadeloupe to quell discontent

©

Video by FRANCE 2 , Catherine NORRIS TRENT

Text by Thibault LIEURADE

Latest update : 2009-06-25

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is visiting the French Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, four months after violent protests over rising costs of living. Sarkozy will participate in ongoing negotiations to calm the social strife.

The French leader landed in Martinique on Thursday before visiting Guadeloupe on Friday. Sarkozy is due to take part in ongoing negotiations to quell the social discord over spiralling costs of living.

 
Sarkozy’s visit comes four months after strikes and violent protests from January to March left the islands paralysed for more than a month. In February, French President Nicolas Sarkozy allocated 580 million euros for all French Caribbean islands together to compensate for high costs of living but some unions say it’s not enough.

 

Guadeloupe’s LKP, the alliance of unions and associations which coordinated this year’s protests, remains resolute over its demands for higher wages.


LKP’s spokesperson Elie Domota is not scheduled to meet with the French president during the visit and has declined to participate in the current talks.

 

“The government has already fixed its policies for overseas departments. Everything is decided in Paris, the meeting is just a way to show that people have a say in the decisions,” said a discontented Domota.


“People are still mobilising because they want lasting change. People are not going to be deceived by all of this hoopla over the meetings with Sarkozy. All of this is meant to distract us so we quiet down,” the unionist added.


The protest movement plans to organise rallies on the sidelines of the French leader’s visit to the region, where an extra 900 policemen were deployed to maintain calm.

 

Winning support


Nicolas Sarkozy’s relationship with the Antilles has always been a complicated one. The French leader drew strong criticism for waiting until day 24 to take steps to quell the protests earlier this year. According to Axel Urgin, the Socialist Party’s national secretary for overseas territories, agreement to allocate aid is nothing but a “declaration.”


“They added some turnips and carrots. The global agreement [to raise salaries] depended from employer to employer. Many of the big companies refused to implement the accord,” added Urgin.

 

In a bid to win support, Sarkozy has asked French writer Daniel Piccouly from Martinique and Guadeloupe’s Olympic Fencing champion Laura Flessel to accompany him. Both personalities have won fame and recognition in mainland France.


Marie-Luce Penchard, a French politician from Guadeloupe and the new state secretary for overseas territories, is also among those travelling with the French president. For Urgin, Penchard “is an intelligent lady, who proved her worth during the European elections, which she won because she deserved it.”

Date created : 2009-06-25

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