France clears Guiana aid package as protesters end space centre occupation
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Protesters withdrew from the rocket-launching space centre in French Guiana on Wednesday as the French government approved a one-billion-euro emergency package to quell a wave of strikes.
The sum offered by France is below the 2.5 billion euros ($2.7 billion) that unions have demanded to address what they say is decades of under-investment in the French territory in South America.
Several hours earlier, protesters including several local lawmakers said they were ending their symbolic occupation of the space centre in Kourou from where France launches European-funded Ariane rockets carrying satellites.
"We wanted to show that we can take control of every part of Guiana, even strategic locations. This was a show of force," spokesman Manuel Jean-Baptiste said.
In Paris, President François Hollande said the government was open to dialogue and must show its "responsibility" to French Guiana, his spokesman said.
French Guiana, which is home to 250,000 people, has been paralysed by strikes this month and protesters have called for a "Marshall Plan" to develop the remote territory, located some 7,000 kilometres from Paris.
Wedged between Brazil and the Atlantic Ocean, French Guiana is the second-largest French administrative area after Nouvelle Aquitaine.
But it is also one of the poorest. Its per capita income of €15,000 is less than half the average on mainland France, and the dearth of jobs and educational prospects has pushed unemployment to record highs, particularly among young people.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)