French President Emmanuel Macron promised on Monday (22nd) to increase immunization in the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe, amid what he described as a “very explosive situation” on the Caribbean island, with rising tensions over mandatory immunization .
“Our priority is to continue to convince [a população da ilha] that vaccination is the best protection,” said Macron.
Guadeloupe’s vaccination rate last week was 33% of the total population — well below France’s overall rate of 75.1%.
Unions on the Franco-Caribbean island called a general strike last Monday in response to the government demanding full immunization for health professionals and a passport for the vaccine, or “passe sanitaire”. Protesters blocked roads and clashed with police throughout the week, and many shops remained closed after nighttime looting.
About 200 police and members of the French military corps, as well as 50 officers from two elite tactical units, were sent to the island to reinforce local police units, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter. In total, 2,250 officers are working to maintain order on the island.
These elite tactical units are responsible for counterterrorism, hostage recovery situations, and fighting organized crime, and are similar to the FBI’s SWAT.
On the streets of Guadeloupe’s main city, Point-a-Pitre, you can find burned cars and rubble after a night of fighting. Police forces arrested dozens of people and, according to French media, protesters broke into an arms depot and took rifles.
Guadeloupe has been hit by violent protests before, but according to the island’s mayor, there are now “great concerns” because there are now weapons present. Schools are closed in the territory.
Macron said the unrest in Guadeloupe was “linked to a very local context” and linked to “historical tensions”.
France’s overseas territories have long had a difficult relationship with the continent, in part because of the history of French slavery and the territories’ relative poverty compared to the European country’s GDP per capita. In Martinique, another French overseas territory that lies 190 kilometers south of Guadeloupe, there are signs of protest spreading across the island.
With information from Reuters
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Reference: CNN Brasil