Page last updated at 15:11 GMT, Thursday, 19 February 2009

Caribbean protests: Your stories

Protest in Fort-de-France, Martinique. File photo
Strikes and protests have hit the islands' tourism industry
France has sent extra police to its Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique after escalating protests left one man dead.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in a weeks-long general strike to protest against low wages and the rising cost of living. In recent days violence and looting has broken out.

Islanders have contacted the BBC News website to share their stories.

Max Larisse
Max Larisse is a retired English teacher from Guadeloupe

The situation is getting worse. A man got killed going past a barricade. We don't know who shot him or why.

We are all very shocked and very sad. Everybody is calling for calm.

There have been strikes since 20 January.

On Monday we had a huge demonstration with around 100,000 people taking part.

It was very calm and everyone was disciplined. There was lots of singing.

But the trouble comes at night with youths who have broken into shops and stolen things.

I feel very sad because we didn't expect things to get worse like that.

The people want justice because there's very high unemployment here. More than 50% of young people in Guadeloupe are unemployed. They have degrees but they cannot get jobs.

There is a tiny white minority whose ancestors were slave owners - they have 80% of the land and 50% of businesses are in their hands.

We have fruit, vegetables and fish because we can get them from the small shops, but the supermarkets are all closed.

It's difficult to go from place to place because of the barricades. People are travelling on foot, motorcycle or bicycle. It's advised not to travel on the roads because it might be dangerous in some places. There are obstacles such as glass, galvanised sheets and old abandoned cars which make it difficult for people to get about.

Charlotte Kilpatrick
American Charlotte Kilpatrick moved to Martinique 18 months ago
I'm living in the neighbouring island of Martinique in the heart of the tourist district known as Anse Mitan.

This morning I waited in line outside a corner store for half an hour as the doorman let people in one at a time.

Turned out this was a waste of time because the shop only had a few mostly rotten apples, soda, and beer.

I managed to buy three cans of small tuna that each cost me more than three euros.

Since delivery trucks haven't been able to reach stores for over two weeks, people are desperate to buy whatever is available, and store keepers get away with thievery.

We haven't been able to find water and there are rumours that the electricity may be cut off, so any food that we're trying to save may spoil.

Just as I was leaving the store I heard people shouting down the street.

A blockade of protesters had arrived carrying red flags and demanded through a loud speaker that all shops close.

I guess I was lucky to buy the last three cans of tuna in my neighbourhood. Road blocks are becoming quite normal and there really isn't anything locals or tourists can do about it.

What began as a well organized strike has quickly descended into anarchy.

I'm originally from Dominica but I've been in Guadeloupe for 20 years.

I'm about 4km away from where the main protests have taken place.

It's very, very unusual, it's very, very bad. Everywhere is closed: banks, supermarkets and so on.

It's just like a war, you'd assume were were in Afghanistan. The roads are all blockaded, no-one can get through and there are fires and gunshots all around.

There's garbage all over the roads. It's very bad. We can't get to work because of the barricades. We try to do our best.

We're used to imported products but we're going back to the natural resources such as breadfruit and yam.

Rangassamy Lokan

The general strike in Guadeloupe started on 20 January and for the last four weeks the agitation was peaceful. Things got out of hand on Monday night after a clash between police and the unions over roadblocks. Now things are relatively peaceful, with a few minor incidents.

Life is difficult for the majority of the people because the wages are low and the prices very high. Prices of essential goods are 50% higher than in mainland France.

Although supermarkets are closed, small shops are open, so essential items and fresh vegetables are available to buy.

People can't move freely now because petrol stations are closed and there is a long queue for the very few that are open.

The French president is now meeting members of parliament from Guadeloupe and local governors. I hope there will be a positive outcome of the meeting, so that peace can return to this paradise island.

Are you in Guadeloupe or Martinique? What are your experiences? Send us your comments using the form below.

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