The measures of appeasement do nothing: neither the postponement of the vaccination obligation to December 31, nor the evocation of a possible autonomy curb the violence in Guadeloupe and Martinique.
Despite the curfew imposed by the prefect of Martinique since Thursday night, violence continues on the island. Roadblocks, fires, looting of stores: the demonstrations have taken on the appearance of urban guerrilla warfare. The police forces dispatched by the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, are having difficulty containing this violence, which is sometimes expressed with firearms. Thus, seventeen police officers were injured in Fort-de-France and, according to government spokesman Gabriel Attal, a gendarme was “severely injured.”
Very tense situation in Guadeloupe
On the neighboring island of Guadeloupe, where the protests began in mid-November, the situation is not much different. Originally, the mandatory vaccination for health care workers was not accepted by the unions. An unlimited general strike was called on Monday, November 15, against a backdrop of recurring economic and social unrest in this West Indian department located more than 6,700 km from Paris.
The riots have been going on for several days, despite the sending of reinforcements from the forces of order. But the situation is hardly favorable to them. The RAID and the GIGN are carrying out “hit and run” operations to give the impression that they are in control of the area. But the exchanges of fire show that everything can quickly get out of hand and that the balance of power can quickly be reversed. The families of the gendarmes remained cloistered in the barracks.
If, in Guadeloupe, the roadblocks were initially held by networks of small thugs, they have been replaced by independents and trade unionists. If the police or gendarmerie intervene too forcefully, the situation could escalate and spill over to mainland France.
This is what the government wants to avoid, and it is multiplying its gestures of appeasement. First of all, the main demand was (and still is) the abolition of the vaccination obligation. “We want to decide for ourselves”, explain the unions. The government has therefore postponed the date of this measure to December 31, 2021. But it was rejected.
The Minister of Overseas Territories, Sebastien Lecornu, announced the funding of 1,000 jobs for young people. In fact, the social crisis is fueled by the economic crisis. In Guadeloupe, as in Martinique, 34.5% of the population lives below the poverty line and unemployment is close to 20%.
In the absence of any argument, the Minister for Overseas France has launched the idea of the island’s autonomy. The government would be “ready” to talk about it.
But is this really the subject? Do the Guadeloupeans and Martinicans want to separate from the metropolis? They do not claim it. They only claim equal treatment between all departments.
The violence in the two Caribbean islands may well continue.
#MouvementsSociaux La @Gendarmerie_971 continue activement les déblaiements sur la route afin de libérer le plus rapidement les axes de circulation sur tout le territoire de la Guadeloupe continentale. pic.twitter.com/8uX7Z2X3Ox
— Préfet de Guadeloupe (@Prefet971) November 26, 2021
— Anonyme Citoyen (@AnonymeCitoyen) November 27, 2021