Anger about a vaccine mandate for health workers on the French Caribbean archipelago has sparked violent protests.
Anger about a vaccine mandate in France’s overseas territory of Guadeloupe has led to an “explosive” situation, President Emmanuel Macron has said.
A general strike called by trade unions has entered a second week after looting and violent protests against coronavirus measures imposed by Paris, which include health pass rules and mandatory vaccinations for health workers.
Macron’s prime minister and parliamentarians from the Caribbean archipelago will hold crisis talks in Paris on Monday.
Police in Guadeloupe, home to nearly 400,000 residents, arrested 38 people overnight on Sunday after curfew violators looted and set fire to shops and pharmacies.
“We don’t know yet how far it will go,” the mayor of Guadeloupe’s main city, Pointe-ए-Pitre, told France Info radio.
French media reported on Sunday that rioters broke into an arms depot in Pointe-au-Pitre and took rifles.
Guadeloupe has been hit by violent protests in the past, the mayor said, but now there are “huge concerns” on the island because rioters were carrying guns.
Officials in Guadeloupe said protesters opened fire on security forces and firefighters, adding that “organised gangs” have now joined the unrest.
The city was largely quiet on Monday with schools closed and streets barricaded as most shops were closed.
France has deployed 200 additional police officers, including elite commandos, to quell unrest in Guadeloupe.
From 6:00 pm local time to 5:00 am (22:00 – 0900 GMT) the curfew will currently last until Tuesday.
Anger about vaccine mandates and coronavirus restrictions has raised widespread questions about the archipelago’s relationship with Paris.
During the weekend, Guadeloupe’s main trade union, the UGTG, called for continued protests.
UGTG Secretary General Maite Hubert M’Tumo said, while the demonstrations were triggered by the vaccine mandate, they also expressed “the depth of suffering, inequality, poverty and exclusion felt by people, especially the youth and the elderly”. Huh.
Macron acknowledged the seriousness of the situation and urged local politicians not to mix issues related to coronavirus regulations with complaints from the colonial-era and longstanding that the region is economically neglected by Paris.
Macron described the situation as “very explosive” during a visit to northern France on Monday, saying “we will not succumb to the lies, distort and exploitation of information by some of the people in this situation.”
“We do not play with health and we will not allow the health of the French to be played with for political infighting,” he said. “We should explain, explain, explain and persuade, persuade, celebrate, because no one should play with people’s health.”
Vaccination rates in France’s overseas territories in the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific have generally been much lower than those on the mainland and there has been repeated unrest about anti-virus measures.
A general strike has been called for Monday in the neighboring French overseas territory of Martinique, some 190km (118 miles) south of Guadeloupe. Union leaders are calling for an end to compulsory vaccination for health workers. They are also protesting in favor of pay hike and issues.