Guadeloupe: behind the health challenge, the explosion of a deeper anger

The barricades are starting to fall in Guadeloupe, after an electric week marked by calls for a general strike. The police and gendarmerie reinforcements announced by the government and disembarked on Sunday undertook to clear the roads the pieces of sheet metal, the garbage containers or the trees serving as shields for the demonstrators, mobilized against the vaccination obligation for caregivers and against the health pass imposed here as everywhere in France. The fear of new urban violence, however, forced the rectorate to suspend this Monday the reception of students in schools, colleges and high schools. A curfew is still in effect until Tuesday morning.

The fear of a new wave of tensions can also be explained by the very first legal consequences of this revolt. Thirty people will be tried this Monday in immediate appearance in Pointe-à-Pitre, suspected of having participated in urban violence, including fires and looting. The other reason being the protean nature of this insurgency, which according to local actors goes much further than a simple disagreement around vaccine policy and even the fight against Covid-19. Since the summer, the vaccination rate has in fact increased a lot in Guadeloupe, with a rate of nearly 90% of caregivers vaccinated, and approaching 50% in the general population. The President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron assured, on the sidelines of a visit to Amiens, that there was in Guadeloupe “a growing support for vaccination”, despite the opposition of a “very small minority”. “It is necessary that” the public order is maintained “, he still affirmed.

High unemployment rate, poverty …

Asked Friday by AFP, Maïté M’Toumo, secretary general of the UGTG, estimated that the vaccination obligation is “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. According to this official who asks for negotiations with the government, the establishment of a vaccination obligation for caregivers would be “proof that in Guadeloupe we are being imposed rules that go against the interests of the people”.

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There is a glaring lack of confidence in public health. “In addition to the loss of confidence in the word of the State due in particular to the management of the beginning of the crisis with contradictions on the usefulness of the mask, there is a heavy historical past”, analyzed at the end of September with L’Express the Guadeloupe deputy Olivier Serva. “The parliamentary commission of inquiry into the use of chlordecone clearly highlighted the state’s full knowledge of the consequences of the use of this pesticide, which was also immediately banned in France in 1990 and maintained in the West Indies until in 1993, continued the deputy, which allows our territories to break records for prostate cancer. ”

But anger is also linked to a very difficult economic and social context. Making the injection conditional on keeping his job and therefore his salary had already been perceived as an injustice in mainland France when it was introduced. This discontent is even greater, on an island where the unemployment rate is high. According to l’Insee, 17% of Guadeloupe are unemployed, a rate twice that of France. Among 15-29 year olds, and despite some progress in recent years, more than a third are unemployed.

“We cannot deprive these people of salary, knowing the difficulties that we encounter at the level of Guadeloupe. We are more than 40 years behind compared to the Hexagon concerning our economic development”, strongly criticized Saturday the president of region, Ary Chalus (LREM), on Franceinfo. “This blockage is not only due to this vaccination obligation but also to all the problems that we have been encountering since earlier (…) You know that with this health situation Guadeloupe has lost a lot, whether in terms of tax on fuels, transport, communities, and in particular for the Region, we have lost nearly 30 million “, he had already warned at the very beginning of the general strike.

“The real subject is that [cette révolte, NDLR] comes a long way. Guadeloupe has been abandoned in terms of public service for years “, also recognized the candidate for the primary of the right Philippe Juvin, at the microphone of RMC, this Monday morning.

32 claims

Symbol of deep palpable unease, in a tract distributed even before the start of hostilities, at the end of October, the Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon (LKP), a collective of Guadeloupe associations and organizations, at the origin of the massive strike of 2009, also questioned: “In the name of the Law of the Republic! It is therefore by virtue of this adage, that they decided to punish us (…) But why, in the name of the Republic, is the poverty line of 1020 euros in France then that it is in Guadeloupe of 790 euros? But why are there in Guadeloupe more than 23,000 families declared poor, more than 34% of the population? “.

In total, no less than 32 demands were finally presented to the authorities on Friday by the struggling organizations, indicates The 1st. Among them, fifteen specific to the treatment of firefighters on site. But above all, at the top of the list, “the generalized increase in wages, social minima, unemployment benefits and retirement pensions at the same time as the increase in prices”, or even “the massive hiring of incumbents, in all public functions, at the post office, in schools, at the university … “. At the hospital, opponents demand “material resources for health, the social and medico-social sector”, as well as “the establishment of a quality health system to welcome and treat users, with dignity and efficiently. “.

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A meeting is scheduled for Monday night between Jean Castex, accompanied by Foreign Minister Sébastien Lecornu and Health Minister Olivier Véran, on “the analysis of the situation on the ground”. A point that could therefore be long, as so many tensions have accumulated in recent years.


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Frédéric Filloux is a columnist for L'Express and editor of the Monday Note.Frédéric Filloux

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Stefan BarenskyStefan Barensky

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CREDIT: LAURA ACQUAVIVAChristophe Donner

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Robin Rivaton, essayist, member of the scientific and evaluation council of the Foundation for political innovation (Fondapol).By Robin Rivaton

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