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Page last updated at 22:32 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

France faces unrest in Caribbean

Protest in Fort-de-France, Martinique
Strikes and protests have hit the islands' tourism industry

Riot police from mainland France have arrived on the French Caribbean islands as protests threaten to paralyse tourism and spread further afield.

Strikes on Guadeloupe and Martinique have closed shops and schools and the reinforcements will help local police.

France's Minister for Overseas Territories, Yves Jego, was to resume negotiations on Thursday after making a second trip to the region in a week.

Unions on the islands are protesting about low wages and rising prices.

And counterparts in other French territories say they may follow suit.

The strike in Guadeloupe is now in its fourth week, while Martinique has seen protests for just over a week.

Mr Jego said the deployment of 130 French riot police aimed to "ensure that order is maintained".

Local police have had to deal with daily protests, amid rubbish piling up on the streets and long queues at petrol stations.

Martinique's police chief, Col Francois-Xavier Bourges, said that 10 people had been held for looting and stealing gasoline.

Tourism hit

The strikers have blocked roads and supermarkets, which they blame for the rapidly rising prices of everyday goods.

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Supermarkets on Martinique agreed earlier this week to cut prices on 100 top products by 20%.

Unions welcomed that move but said they would not call off the strike.

The action has dealt a severe blow to the islands' important tourist industry, with up to 10,000 tourists reported to have cancelled their holidays.

Poverty and unemployment are more widespread on the islands than the French mainland.

The islands have a high cost of living and use the euro. Correspondents say many residents feel their salaries are not keeping up with rising prices.

Patrick Lozes, head of the French black rights group Cran, complained that "160 years after the abolition of slavery, the descendants of colonial settlers own 90% of Guadeloupe's wealth, but represent only 1% of the population".



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SEE ALSO
Regions and territories: Guadeloupe
22 Apr 08 |  Country profiles
Regions and territories: Martinique
29 Aug 12 |  Country profiles


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