From our regional correspondent
The sister island has joined the protest. After Guadeloupe on November 15, Martinique declared yesterday, Monday November 22, a general and unlimited strike. In both territories, the unions have agreed on a list of demands. The end of the vaccination obligation for caregivers and firefighters, as well as the catching up of suspended salaries. But also an overall increase in social minima, a regulation of fuel and gas prices, or even free chlordeconemia tests, to assess the level of chlordecone in the blood.
In Guadeloupe, where schools, courts and prefecture services remain closed at the start of the week, these various grievances have been recurring since 2009, and the great general strike which had paralyzed the Antilles-Guyana for more than a month. Added to this are the management of drinking water, the lack of resources at the hospital or in education, or, since Monday, November 15, the salaries of service station employees. “Our anger has been building up for so long and no one is listening to us. The explosion was predictable ”, launches Patricia Pioche, deputy secretary of the General Union of Workers of Guadeloupe (UGTG).
The trigger, this time, was the vaccination obligation, generalized from November 15 in Guadeloupe and postponed to December 31 in Martinique, after a massive mobilization at the CHU of Fort-de-France. The vaccine against Covid-19 is still poorly received in the West Indies: 43.5% of Guadeloupeans and 39.4% of Martinicans only received a first injection. Patricia Pioche qualifies, however: “They say we’re an anti-vax bunch, but that’s not true. Some strikers are vaccinated. ” Guadeloupe caregivers for example, mobilized since July 17, are now almost 90%.
It is, ultimately, a movement of frontal opposition to the state. “He leaves us languishing in problems, and today talks about protecting us with this vaccine?” “, thus attacks Sandhya Féras, a nurse on strike. The rupture is also consumed between the population and the local elected officials. They are accused, failing to act for the common good, of “Empty the boxes”, marred by the affairs of patronage and favoritism, which are commonplace in the West Indies. “Why don’t they send us a van of judges and experts, rather than gendarmes? “, thus questions Élie Faillot, from the picket line of Morne-à-l’Eau.
On Saturday 20 November, some 250 police, gendarmerie, Raid and GIGN forces were sent to Guadeloupe by the Ministry of the Interior. Since the 18th, the nights of riot follow one another with fires, looting, and live ammunition. A curfew was in place between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. from November 19 to 23. This urban violence, on the fringes of mobilization, is the result of “Neighborhood youth looking for chaos”, indicated the prefect, Alexandre Rochatte.
If they dissociate themselves from the excesses, the strikers are annoyed with an exclusively security response and demand the recognition of “Their particularities”. “We can no longer be treated in the same way as Paris or Marseille”, says Patricia Pioche, who cites higher prices, higher unemployment, and even the sugar level of processed foods, more concentrated. It’s a “Very explosive situation linked to a very local context and historical tensions”, as well as “Certain interests that seek to use anxiety”, Emmanuel Macron analyzed yesterday, while the elected officials were to be received at Matignon in the evening.