"No to impunity": several thousand people demonstrated on Saturday in Martinique against the threat of prescription in the case of chlordecone, an insecticide accused of having poisoned the island and neighboring Guadeloupe where the mobilization started more timidly.
"We had never seen such an important event since 2009".
Twelve years after the general strike against the high cost of living, Francis Carole, president of the Party for the Liberation of Martinique (Palima) and executive advisor in charge of health affairs of the local authority, relishes this return of Martinicans to the street.
Between 10 and 15,000 people according to the organizers, 5,000 according to the police, some wearing anti-Covid masks, others not, like Francis Carole: "The Martiniquais mobilized by the thousands", underlined this various left leader, to answer "to the spitting that the French State launched at us, namely the threat of prescription" in the file of this insecticide which infiltrated the soil of the island for hundreds of years.
- Carnival air -
Drums, "chachas" (maracas), Lambi conch (shell symbol of the island which also serves as an instrument) and songs: the seriousness of the subject did not prevent the gathering from taking place in a festive atmosphere.
"Prescription dapré yo, di prefet has random planted bannan" ("according to them there will be prescription, tell the prefect to go and plant bananas"), the demonstrators sang in particular, taking up the tune of a song from carnival, illegal this year due to Covid-19.
Without forgetting, however, the slogan of the forty associations, unions and political parties of the island who had called for the rally: "no to impunity".
The insecticide was authorized between 1972 and 1993 in the banana plantations of the Antilles, polluting water and agricultural production, while its toxicity and its persistent power in the environment had been known since the 1960s.
"They poison us, they kill us," proclaims a banner of the CGT Martinique held by two women dressed in red, while others had opted for red, green or black, colors of the flag adopted by a majority of Martiniquais.
- General contamination -
More than 90% of the adult population in Guadeloupe and Martinique is contaminated by chlordecone, according to Public Health France, and the West Indian populations have one of the highest incidence rate of prostate cancer in the world.
On a sign, a protester calculated "the Martinican bill" for the French state: "annual security ceiling (41,136 euros) X affected population (370,000 inhabitants) X 500 years = 7.6 billion euros".
Several associations from Martinique and Guadeloupe were heard on January 20 and 21 by the Parisian examining magistrates in charge of the case.
As early as 2006, they had filed a complaint against the poisoning of their islands with chlordecone.
But during this hearing, the investigating judges in charge of the case since 2008 explained to the plaintiffs that there could be statute of limitations and that the case could lead to a dismissal.
An option that shocked public opinion and led to this great mobilization this Saturday.
For Harry Bauchaint, a member of the Péyi-A political movement, "the government has allegedly recognized some action but has done nothing, and little by little is withdrawing".
"The government must protect all French people," he recalls.
- "Late awakening" -
If the mobilization, in the current health context, is a great success in Martinique, it is more timid in Guadeloupe where 300 people, according to the local CGT, the organizing union, participated in a simultaneous demonstration in Capesterre-Belle-Eau.
Lawyer Harry Durimel, the mayor of Pointe-à-Pitre at the forefront of this fight, was not present.
"I am delighted that there is a revival but it is late, it is very sad," he lamented to AFP.
In Paris, place of the third simultaneous demonstration, a little more than 200 people gathered at Place de la République.
"The whole of French society should take up the cause so that there is no prescription," Toni Mango, head of Kolèktif Doubout Pou Gwadloup, told AFP. catalyst for mobilization.
"This is a first call, a first demonstration since the Covid and we will not stop there".
© 2021 AFP