France: faced with the crisis in the West Indies, government and unions in a dialogue of the deaf

Minister Sébastien Lecornu arrived in the West Indies after several weeks of riots and sometimes violent protests.

Here, a dam in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, on November 22, 2021. © Ricardo Arduengo, Reuters

Text by: RFI Follow

4 min

Discussions barely stopped: the French Overseas Minister Sébastien Lecornu only met briefly on Monday, November 29, the inter-union in Guadeloupe where the government is sending 70 mobile gendarmes and 10 additional members of the GIGN to deal with the violence during the social crisis.

After this flash visit of 24 hours, the minister then arrived in Martinique on Monday evening.

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Sébastien Lecornu landed in the early evening in Martinique, we learned from those around him, his second and last stage

of a short stay intended to ease tensions

and try to

get out of the social crisis

crossed by the two islands of the French Antilles.

120 km apart, the two overseas departments are marked by a high rate of unemployment, especially among young people.

He should be back on Wednesday December 1 in Paris.

Still in Guadeloupe, where he arrived on Sunday, November 28, the minister ruled that no discussion is possible as long as the unions “ 

do not want to condemn assassination attempts against police and gendarmes

 ”, a “ 

prerequisite however obvious and indispensable

 ”.

His meeting with four union representatives from the UGTG and FO was therefore reduced to a simple handing over of " 

demand documents

 ".

Calling for " 

awareness

 " in the face of violence, Sébastien Lecornu announced during a press point the dispatch of a squadron of 70 mobile gendarmes and 10 additional members of the GIGN, to " 

hold on

 ".

When we shoot and water 9 millimeters in the streets

 ", it is " 

a miracle that a child of 9 or 10

 " did not " 

find himself under these bullets 

", he said. insisted.

Born from the refusal of the vaccination obligation for caregivers and firefighters, the movement has spread to

political and social demands

, in particular against the high cost of living, in these islands

with a high rate of unemployment

, in particular among young people.

 Also to listen: 

Social crisis in the French West Indies: the reasons for the anger

The minister sharply criticized union officials who " 

began to seek amnesties

 " for the perpetrators.

Everything will be done to free the roadblocks

 " which still hamper traffic in places on the island " 

and the reinforcements are involved in that

 " continued Sébastien Lecornu.

A visit " 

forced by the balance of power

 "?

On the union side

, the delegation believes that Sébastien Lecornu " 

did not come to negotiate, but because he was forced by the balance of power that we have established

 ".

Maïté Hubert-M'Toumo, of the UGTG, recalls their "

priority

 "

demands 

such as " 

the end of the suspensions of

 non-vaccinated

personnel and liberal professions

", the " 

suspension of convictions of people for violence

 ", and a " 

emergency plan for the qualification of young people and the working conditions of Guadeloupe families

 ”.

The inter-union also demanded that 30 organizations be received, and not 10. On Monday, the Collective of socio-professionals, which brings together several very different trades (carriers, taxis, construction, tourism), threatened " 

action

 Within 24 hours if he was not invited to the negotiations.

The collective had barred Guadeloupe for three days in February.

“ 

We cannot negotiate in 24 hours.

(Lecornu)

is the father who came to scold his son, came to teach a lesson but the lesson will not pass

 , ”Jocelyn Zou of FO firefighters told the press.

In the process, Guadeloupe local elected officials decided not to go to a meeting scheduled with Sébastien Lecornu, which finally took place by videoconference but only with “ 

16 mayors

 ”, he stressed.

Mr. Lecornu repeated that the vaccination obligation, postponed to December 31, would not be lifted, because " 

the laws of the Republic are intended to apply

 " in the French Antilles.

Like the previous one, the night from Sunday to Monday was quieter.

Only a " 

small clash

 " was to be deplored in Guadeloupe, according to a police source at AFP.

Some 300 people demonstrated in calm Monday in front of the sub-prefecture of Guadeloupe while Mr. Lecornu received the unions.

Autonomy under debate

In Martinique, Sébastien Lecornu will also meet with the inter-union and local elected officials, who have signed an "

method agreement

" with the state 

 to try to get out of the crisis, the prefecture said.

Seven themes (health, youth, cost of living including fuel and gas prices, transport, chlordeconomics, fishing, culture) must be discussed.

In metropolitan France, the oppositions, especially on the right, continue to castigate the new position of the government, " 

ready

 ", according to Mr. Lecornu Friday, to raise the question of more autonomy for Guadeloupe.

The debate on autonomy is " 

obviously not the debate on independence

 ", proclaimed the Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin, citing the example of French Polynesia with reinforced autonomy since 1996. According to him, it is about a “request” coming from the “ 

elected officials of Guadeloupe

 ”.

(with AFP)

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  • Guadeloupe

  • Martinique

  • Coronavirus

  • Vaccines

  • Overseas

  • Social issues

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