COVID-19: French forces advance to Guadeloupe amid riots

LE GOSIER, GUADELOUPE – Residents of the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, a French overseas territory, expressed frustration on Sunday after protests against COVID-19 restrictions erupted into violence. riots and looting for the third day in a row, prompting the French authorities to send in police. special forces.

Protesters blocked roads, making travel around the island nearly impossible on Sunday. Firefighters reported 48 interventions between night and Sunday morning. This island of 400,000 people has one of the lowest vaccination rates in France at 33%, compared with 75% nationally.

In Pointe-a-Pitre, the island’s largest urban area, clashes left three people injured, including an 80-year-old woman who was shot while on a balcony. A firefighter and a police officer were also injured and several shops were looted there and in other towns. A police station in Morne-a-l’Eau was set on fire.

Guadeloupe Premier Alexandre Rochatte, who imposed a nightly curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m., on Sunday said 38 people had been arrested overnight and denounced “organized groups that are now trying to find a way.” sowing chaos.”

Emilie Guisbert, a 47-year-old Pointe-a-Pitre resident, was sleeping in her home in the building owned by her father when it burned down Thursday night. Her friend woke her up and she just had time to get dressed and run outside with her dogs, she told the Associated Press.

“I’ve lost everything. Everything. I go out with my cell phone and what I’m wearing,” she said, adding that the personal belongings of her parents, grandparents and great-grandfather Hers are all in the house. “It was the 100th anniversary of a Guadeloupean family that went up in smoke within 15 minutes.”

She said she has not yet received help from the authorities. “We’re completely at our disposal. I don’t know who’s moving (the house). Is it us, the insurance, the town hall?”

The protests have been called by unions to denounce France’s COVID-19 health card, which is required to enter restaurants and cafes, cultural venues, sports arenas and long-distance travel . The protesters also protested against France’s mandatory vaccination of health workers. In recent days, they have broadened their requirements to include general pay increases, higher unemployment benefits and hiring more teachers.

Gregory Agape, 30, who also lives in the Pointe-a-Pitre neighborhood, where there is constant violence, says he can’t sleep at night.

He said: “We are always annoyed by the noise, the explosion, all the bustle around, so the nights are very complicated, very short.

Agape said he has conflicting thoughts about the COVID-19 protest movement. “I’m well aware of the economic, social, cultural difficulties … but it’s quite complicated, because I think (the protests) are making Guadeloupean society even more fragile.”

“I’m neither against nor for vaccines,” said Jacques Bertili, a 49-year-old Le Gosier resident. “But what bothers me is the looting. Because we need to work.”

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin denounced the violence as “unacceptable” in an interview Sunday with Le Parisien newspaper. He said 50 officers from the special police force arrived in Guadeloupe on Sunday, in addition to another 200 officers sent earlier.

Darmanin said after an emergency meeting Saturday in Paris that “several shots were fired at police officers” in Guadeloupe. He also said blocked roads had created a “very difficult situation for several hours” in which patients and supplies were unable to get to the hospital.

Rochatte said several power facilities near the dams had been damaged, leading to some power outages, and advised residents not to go near downed power cables.


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