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Guadeloupe: Escalating tensions lead to violence

After weeks of largely peaceful protests in the French overseas departments of Guadeloupe and Martinique, things took a violent turn on Monday, as police and demonstrators clashed in Guadeloupe's largest city, Pointe-à-Pitre.  Workers are protesting skyrocketing unemployment and the rising costs of basic necessities, many of which are imported from France.

On the citizen media website, Agoravox, Illiouchine, a métropolitain [a French citizen from mainland France], describes the scene in Guadeloupe this weekend and the calm that followed Monday night's violence, an unfortunate turn of events

Temps magnifique ce matin, grand soleil, pas un nuage ni une pique de vent. Le sommet de la Soufrière est parfaitement dégagé. On voit très bien les fumerolles qui s’élèvent droit dans le ciel depuis le plateau du volcan.

The weather was gorgeous this morning, sunny, no wind, and not a cloud in the sky.  The summit of Soufrière [a volcano in Guadeloupe National Park] was perfectly clear.  You could see the smoke rising straight up to the sky from vents at the top of the volcano.

La nuit a été chaude en Grande Terre. Les alentours de PAP ont été le siège de scènes de violence : incendies, pillages de magasins. Bien sûr on n’a pas pillé des épiceries : ce sont des magasins d’articles de sport et d’accessoires auto qui ont fait les frais des vols. Nouveaux barrages un peu partout ce matin. Le préfet reste calme mais explique qu’il va continuer à dégager les routes. Pour le moment, Saint Claude a son visage habituel, les magasins sont ouverts, les gens vaquent à leurs occupations

Last night was a different story.  The areas around PAP [Pointe-à-Pitre, the largest city in Guadeloupe] were the center of violent scenes: fires, shops looted.  Of course, grocery stores were not touched: it was the sporting goods stores and the car accessory shops that paid the price.  All over, there were new barricades this morning.  The prefect stayed calm but explained he will continue to clear up the roads.  For the moment, Saint Claude is back to normal, stores are open, people going about their business.

La Guadeloupe en colère describes Monday's events:

Hier matin, de nombreux barrages routiers avaient été érigés par les militants grévistes dans certains points stratégiques.

…les nombreux escadrons de gendarmerie, envoyés sur l'île depuis le début du conflit, ont donc procédé à l'évacuation des barrages. Ce qui devait arriver arriva. Devant la résistance des grévistes, les forces de l'ordre n'ont pas hésité à faire usage de la force. De nombreux manifestants ont été interpellés, une cinquantaine environ, tous seront relâchés dans la journée après une courte garde à vue.

Yesterday morning, a number of roadblocks were raised by striking militants in strategic places.

…a number of police squads, sent to the island at the beginning of the conflict, went forward with the clearing of the barricades.  The inevitable happened.  Facing resistance from the protestors, security forces did not hesitate to use force.  A number of protestors were taken in for questioning, about 50, all of whom will be released today after a short stay in police custody.

Je déplore cette dégradation de la situation, là où la violence s'exprime c'est que le dialogue a échoué… La faute à qui ? L'Etat? Le collectif? Les patrons? Tout le monde est responsable car ils connaissaient tous l'issue!

I deplore how the situation has deteriorating, where violence reigns it's because dialogue has failed…Whose fault is it?  The state?  The masses?  The employers?  Everyone is responsible because everyone knows the outcome!

Je me réveille péniblement. J'apprends, choquée, que la boutique de la presse (tabac-presse), rare îlot de culture, a été incendiée. Je sens l'angoisse me gagner.

Je me résous à aller au travail, trop consciencieuse ou zélée sûrement.
La direction nous contacte et nous demande de rentrer chez nous, estimant la situation trop tendue.

Je m'en vais… Des feux de poubelle émaillent les rues…

Pour la première fois, je me demande où nous allons…

It was hard to wake up.  I was shocked when I learned that the newspaper shop, rare island of culture, was burned down.  I feel dread overtaking me.I decide to go to work; [I am] surely too conscientious or zealous.  Our supervisors contact us and tell us to go home, deeming the situation too precarious.

I leave…Smoldering garbage pave the streets…

For the first time, I ask myself where we are going…

In a comment, f parfait writes:

Sans justifier tous les évènements, gardons à l'esprit que la société guadeloupéenne n'a que 400 ans d'existence et moins encore pour le peuple guadeloupéen ( abolition de l'esclavage en ?). Nous sommes une société en genèse, combien de tant a-t-il fallu à la France pour arriver à sa situation actuelle?…

Without justifying everything that's happened, find hope in that fact that Guadeloupean society has not even existed for 400 years, and the Guadeloupean people (when was the abolition of slavery?).  We are a society in formation.  How long did it take France to get to where it is today?…

Caro in a comment on a Rue89 article, explains what are, in this reader's opinion, the root causes of the current conflict:

La grosse erreur, à mon avis, a été de vouloir régler les barrages de Guyane en décembre (car c’est bien de Guyane que sont partis les premiers mouvements), sans rien faire pour la Guadeloupe et La Martinique, où tout le monde savait que se préparait une grève générale.

The big mistake, in my opinion, was trying to settle [the unrest] in French Guiana in December (because the first rumblings of this started in French Guiana), without doing anything for Guadeloupe or Martinique, which everyone knew were preparing for a general strike.

Le gouvernement a bien laissé pourrir la situation, alors qu’il connaissait le ras le bol de la population, le chômage qui explose, les produits de première nécessités, importés de métropole, de plus en plus chers etc

The government let the situation deteriorate, all the while knowing the frustrations of the people, the exploding unemployment, that basic goods, imported from the metropole, were becoming more and more expensive

Les DOM reçoivent beaucoup d’argent, non seulement de la métropole, mais aussi des fonds européens (ils font partie de l’Europe …), mais cet argent ne sert pas à la population, toujours plus pauvre…

The overseas departments receive a lot of money, not only from the metropole, but also from European sources (they are part of Europe…), but this money does not serve the people, who just get poorer…

…S’il ne veut pas une explosion de tous les DOM (la Guyane serait prête à repartir dans la grève dès la fin du carnaval, ça bouge aussi à La Réunion), le gouv a intérêt à vite fait trouver comment mettre la main au portemonnaie en favorisant la population et non les patrons. Mais ça, c’est contraire à sa philosophie patronale.

…If they don't want to see all of the overseas departments explode (French Guiana will be ready to go on strike again after the end of carnival, and things are also happening in Reunion), it is in the government's interest to quickly find a way to open their wallets in a way that benefits the people, and not the employers.  But that's against the philosophy of landlords.

Comment cela va-t-il se terminer ? On peut être inquiet. Il faudrait un gros soutien des métros, montrer que nous sommes solidaires. Ce qui se passe là-bas nous concerne aussi.

How will this end?  We can be worried.  We need mass support from people in mainland France, to show that our solidarity.  What happens there affects us too.

5 comments

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