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Guadeloupe: A new social movement

Thirty-two, thirty-four, thirty-six and now fifty-two – these are the historically growing numbers of trade unions, cultural and political associations which have formed in the last month or so, all united around a motto: Lyannaj kont pwofitasyon, Creole for “Let's gather up to fight against all sorts of abuses”.

Guadeloupe has been in a state of social unrest for about a week now after a call for action was launched by l’UGTG [Fr], a local trade union which defends the interests of Guadeloupean workers. The move aimed to express the dissatisfaction and frustration of Guadeloupean people after years of shady price fixing and skyrocketing prices for household products. Dah in UGTG blog writes specifically to young people in Guadeloupe, asking them to open their eyes [Creole]:

LE 16 DÉSANM FO NOU SANBLÉ ÉPI LÉ PLI GRAN KINI LABITID LITÉ POU PEN A YO, PEN AN NOU : AN NOU KRÉVÉ BOBO LA POU 2009 GWADA PLI NÈF.

LE 16 FO TOUT JÉNES LA EN LARILA ÉPI LÉ SENDIKA ÈVÈ LÉ ASOSIASYON KILTRIREL ANSANM ANSANM POU DÈMEN PLI BEL KI JODI.

On December 16th (08) we have to get together with older people who are used to fighting to earn their living and ours: let's root out the evil to achieve a better Guadeloupe in 2009.

On the 16th, all young Guadeloupeans should be down in the streets, demonstrating with the unions and the cultural associations hand in hand, so that tomorrow is better than today.

After a huge demonstration, which shed a brand new light on the country's state of mind, the collective displayed their structured platform of claims, organized around 10 major concerns [in French and Creole]:

1- NIVEAU ET CONDITIONS DE VIE
2 – EDUCATION
3 – FORMATION PROFESSIONNELLE
4 – EMPLOI
5 – DROITS SYNDICAUX ET LIBERTES SYNDICALES
6 – SERVICES PUBLICS
7 – PRODUCTION
8 – AMÉNAGEMENT DU TERRITOIRE ET INFRASTRUCTURES
9 – KILTI
10 – ARÉTÉ PWOFITASYON

1 – Standards and conditions of living
2 – Education
3 – Profesionnal training
4 – Employment
5 – Trade Union rights and freedoms
6 – Public services and Civil servants
7 – Manufacturing and agriculture
8 – Development of the region and its facilities
9 – Culture
10 – Stop abusing us

This platform was addressed to the “Préfet”, the “députés“, the members of the Chamber of Commerce, farmers and everyone part of the civilian society. It aimed at informing people and eventually launching an unlimited all-out strike, starting on January 20th.

For a while, many Guadeloupeans thought that 130 claims organized around 10 major points were too numerous and therefore not credible. Comments on a post by Herve on the blog Fwiyapin [French & Creole] highlight the concerns:

[…]cette fois-ci toute cette mobilisation semble assez “fouillis”, on ne sait pas à qui les revendications sont adressées…pourquoi ne pas remonter carrément aux banques américaines ou aux compagnies pétrolières?

[…]this time now, this mobilization sounds “messy”: who are the claims addressed to? nobody knows!…why not address the American banks or the Oil companies?

The other issue has been the relevance of such a massive movement at a time of global crisis, as expressed in another comment on the same post:

Tu crois vraiment qu’il obtiendrons toutes leurs revendications j’en doute fort vu que le contexte internationale… Je trouve que ces dangereux et irresponsables de faire miroiter au gens 200€ d’augmentations sur les bas salaires alors que la crise mondiale ne le permet pas.

Do you really think all their claims will be satisfied, I highly doubt it because of the global situation [the crisis]…I think it is even dangerous and irresponsible to make people believe that they will get an extra 200 euros on the lowest salaries, when the global crisis makes everything so difficult!!!”

Even with these doubts, the mobilization has proved to be massive and popular. Schools, gas stations and most companies have been closed for about a week now, with very serious consequences on the island's economy – but many Guadeloupeans have given the green light to Lyannaj’ kont pwofitasyon in order to have an outlet to express their worries not only for the present, but above all for the future.

We can read a few unofficial figures from Shakazulu on Gwakafwika [Creole], who talks about the first demonstration on January 20th (as well as those on January 23rd and 24th) and from Zandwonis in Carib Creole One [Fr]:

Manifèstasyon Lapwent chayé omwen 10 000 moun! I pli masif ki dènyé fwa-la. Ève on gwan manman mobilizasyon kon sa, nou ka atann pou nou vwè.

Sanmdi Lapwent plis ki 25 000 moun adan gwan manman manifèstasyon-la. Dimanch toujou Lapwent plis ki 40 000 moun adan gwan déboulé a “mas a konsyans”.

There were about 10 000 people in the demonstration in Pointe-à-Pitre! It was bigger than last time. With such a huge protest, we are awaiting the reaction [from the officials].

On Saturday,there were more than 25 000 people massively demonstrating in Pointe-à-Pitre and on Sunday, still in Pointe-à-Pitre, there were more than 40 000 people in the huge carnival and cultural parade called “mas a konsyans” (parade to awake consciences).

[Samedi 24 janvier 2009] Au moins 20 000 personnes ont défilé dans les rues de Pointe à Pite à l’appel du “Collectif Lyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon” (CLKP). Les médias officiels ont annoncé plus de 8 000 manifestants. Dans l’histoire de mouvements ouvriers guadeloupéens, c’est bien la première fois qu’un mouvement social suscite une adhésion aussi massive.

[On Saturday, January 24th 2009] At least 20 000 people protested in the streets of Pointe-à-Pitre after le call of “Collectif Lyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon” (CLKP). The official media announced that there were more than 8000 people. In the history of Guadeloupean labor movements, it is the first time that a social movement is so popular.

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