More arrests in Guadeloupe after protesters clash with police

Europe  Ricardo Arduengo, Reuters
DEC 7, 2021 LISTEN
© Ricardo Arduengo, Reuters

Seven more people were arrested in Guadeloupe according to authorities on Monday. The French overseas territory has seen nearly a month of often violent clashes and protests over Covid-19 restrictions and general anger over difficult living conditions.

Two people were arrested on Monday morning following clashes which saw three police officers injured when rocks were thrown at them, local authorities said on Monday.

Police were trying to clear a road block set up by protesters at Rivière des Pères, in Basse-Terre, when they were attacked with projectiles in a siege which lasted several hours. Tear gas was fired to break up the crowd.

Another road block in Kassaverie was dismantled, and five other people arrested, including a man carrying an automatic rifle.

A man was arrested over the weekend carrying a stolen firearm, taken during pillages in Baie-Mahault at the beginning of the crisis three weeks ago.

He was handed a 15 month jail term, the local prosecutor in Pointe-à-Pitre Patrick Desjardins said.

Traffic had mostly returned to normal across the island on Monday, with the exception of several road blocks at La Boucan in Sainte-Rose and Perrin aux Abymes.

An extended curfew in place was lifted early on Tuesday morning.

Widespread frustration

Guadeloupe, Martinique and Saint-Martin have been the centre of social unrest since mid November which began as a protest against stricter Covid-19 measures, including mandatory vaccination for health workers.

The French Caribbean, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates, has seen the number of Covid-19 infections jump to 1,000 cases per 100,000 people in Martinique and 2,000 in Guadeloupe for a government alert level of 50 cases per 100,000 people.

The social movement which also saw general strikes, morphed into a general protest over political and social injustice, in particular over the exorbitant cost of living.

Since the beginning of the protests, more than 70 people have been in court and 64 sentenced for acts of violence, vandalism and carrying weapons.

The visit by the minister for overseas territories, Sébastien Lecornu last week ended abruptly when trade unions refused to take responsibility for the violence among its members.

Lecornu had earlier raised the issue of giving more autonomy to Guadeloupe and proposed a debate on improving healthcare, infrastructure projects, and a scheme to create jobs for some 1,000 young people.

The French government announced at that time that it would be postponing the vaccine mandate for public sector workers in Guadeloupe and Martinique until 31 st of December.

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