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Page last updated at 15:48 GMT, Thursday, 19 February 2009

France meets Guadeloupe demands

Union supporter in Guadeloupe
Unions on the islands have been demanding payments for the poor

France has agreed to increase payments to low-paid workers on its Caribbean territories, as it attempts to head off escalating protests and violence.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon proposed supplementing their wages with a 200-euro ($253; £176) monthly payment.

"I hope this will meet the demands for measures to address the high cost of living in the West Indies," he said.

Rioting continued and 33 were arrested overnight on the island of Guadeloupe, where a man was killed this week.

A general strike over rising prices has crippled the island since 20 January. Shops and petrol stations have been shut, and rubbish has piled up on the streets.

A similar strike has taken hold on nearby Martinique.

The situation is getting worse - everybody is calling for calm
Max Larisse
BBC reader, Guadeloupe

Both islands are full overseas departments of France.

On Wednesday, France announced it would send four military police units to Guadeloupe after union official Jacques Bino was shot dead by armed youths at a barricade in the largest city, Pointe-a-Pitre, on Tuesday night.

President Nicolas Sarkozy is due to meet officials from the island in Paris on Thursday to take stock of the situation.

France has made some concessions to the strikers, but until Thursday had refused their main demand - that low-paid workers receive 200 euros a month to help them cope with spiralling prices.

But after all-night negotiations, Prime Minister Fillon said such an offer would be made to the Collective Against Exploitation (LKP), which has been leading the strikes on Guadeloupe and Martinique.

'Wealthy elite'

Police said they were fired upon in Pointe-a-Pitre on Wednesday night, but that nobody was injured. Shops, restaurants and a car dealership were also set alight by protesters.

Map

The tourist industries in both Guadeloupe and Martinique have been badly affected by the unrest, with thousands of tourists cancelling holidays.

The islands use the euro, but prices are significantly higher than on the French mainland.

Some residents alleged that a wealthy, white elite is controlling imports and 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".

France's island territories were recently found to have the highest unemployment in the whole European Union, at more than 20%.


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SEE ALSO
Caribbean protests: Your stories
19 Feb 09 |  Americas
France sends troops to Guadeloupe
18 Feb 09 |  Europe
Guadeloupe protests turn deadly
18 Feb 09 |  Europe
Violent strikes on French island
17 Feb 09 |  Europe
French isles top EU jobless table
16 Feb 09 |  Europe
France faces unrest in Caribbean
12 Feb 09 |  Europe
Regions and territories: Guadeloupe
22 Apr 08 |  Country profiles
Regions and territories: Martinique
29 Aug 12 |  Country profiles

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