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French Guiana protests end with agreement

© Jody Amiet, AFP | Representatives of the collective "500 frères" and the local government sign an agreement at the Prefecture in Cayenne, French Guiana, on April 21, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-04-22

The French government signed an agreement with protesters and local MPs in Guiana Friday, ending a vast protest movement that had paralysed the country for over a month, said the French Minister for Overseas Territories Ericka Bareigts.

The agreement was signed in Cayenne between the government and representatives from Pou La gwiyann dékolé (Collective to Get Guiana Moving), the group that led a general strike on March 25 which caused unrest across the territory, Bareigts said.

It authorises an emergency relief plan of up to 2.1 billion euros, which includes funds for security, education, healthcare and business aid.

France had already approved 1.1 billion in aid for French Guiana at the beginning of April. The additional funds were offered to meet demands made by the collective and local representatives, who rejected the government’s initial offer.

France will prioritise the implementation of the spending plan, said Bareigts, who described the agreement as a “decisive day for the future of Guiana”.

Locals had called for a "Marshall Plan" of French aid, along the lines of the huge US economic support given to help western Europe to recover after World War II, in a bid to revive the economy of the remote South American territory.

Its per capita income of 15,000 euros is less than half the average on mainland France, and protesters complained of a lack of jobs and educational opportunities.

France had initially balked at the demands for investment, with Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve calling them “unrealistic”.

Space operations to resume

The collective’s spokesperson, Davy Rimane, also welcomed the agreement.

“We managed to get the terms of the deal published in the official gazette,” he told AFP.

“Now we can work with this document to get justice if our demands aren’t met.”

The signing of the agreement also means that operations at Europe's Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, where protests had postponed an Arianespace rocket launch, can now resume.

Roadblocks that prevented people ane vehicles from reaching the Kourou space centre were lifted late on Saturday.

"Operations will begin again on Monday," the space station managers said in a statement adding that postponed launches "would be rescheduled."

The space centre has become a symbol of economic disparity in Guiana and a focus for anger, given many locals have no electricity or running water and around one in four is jobless.

Guiana has been administered as a French region since the end of the 18th century and was also used as a place to send convicts for forced labour between 1852 and 1946.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2017-04-22

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