French Guiana still feels forgotten two years after Paris vows
Two years ago, the overseas department of French Guiana, located north of Brazil, was paralysed by unprecedented social unrest. Paris sent two ministers to douse the flames and promised several billion euros to develop France's largest overseas territory. But since then, have things changed? Have the hospitals, schools and prisons promised by the government materialised? Our reporters Fanny Lothaire and Florence Goisnard returned to French Guiana to find out.
With dilapidated infrastructure, rampant insecurity, an unemployment rate of 22% and nearly half the population living on less than €500 a month, the people of French Guiana have long felt abandoned by continental France. Two years ago, in March 2017, this feeling of anger boiled over. The overseas department was brought to a standstill by protests, an "unlimited” general strike, roadblocks and a blockade of petrol stations. Angry residents denounced a level of development "25 years behind" the mainland and demanded a "structural catch-up" of all sectors.
On April 21, 2017, on the eve of the first round of France’s presidential election, the French Guiana accord was eventually signed with the interior and overseas ministers of the time, Matthias Fekl and Ericka Bareigts, who had flown out from Paris to negotiate. The French government allocated more than €3 billion, to be spent on health, education, security and the opening up of remote areas.
Two years on, have these promises been kept? FRANCE 24 reporters returned to French Guiana, including to the poorest neighbourhoods of the capital Cayenne. Among the residents they met, some are optimistic and have seen improvements in their daily lives, while others still feel forgotten by mainland France.