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Caribbean Covid protests force Paris to consider autonomy

Ramin Mazaheri
Press TV, Paris

In France’s dominions in the Caribbean, weeks of anti-government protests have led to mass arrests, violent repression and even talk of autonomy. France’s overseas colonies are often considered a political “canary in the coal mine,” causing many to wonder if protests will break out in mainland France next.

In France’s modern-day colonies of Martinique and Guadeloupe, Paris has resorted to mass arrests and riot police reinforcements from Paris following weeks of Yellow Vest-levels of rebellion. The cause is harsh coronavirus restrictions which have exacerbated already sky-high levels of race-based inequality.

Scores of arrests have been made, there has been at least one death and protesters have barricaded roads and clashed with police in the worst anti-government violence in years.

France insists its overseas colonies are a true “part of France,” and yet they are excluded from official data such as the unemployment rate, they suffer from vastly higher levels of poverty and inequality and vibrant independence movements are popular among the indigenous populations.

The protests have compelled Paris to offer discussing some autonomy for only Guadeloupe, an offer which was immediately criticized by France’s right. The protests also forced a short postponement of a vaccine mandate and a highly-restrictive vaccine passport.

he overseas colonies are noted for routinely being the vanguards of political movements which arrive later in mainland France.

Much as a diesel tax in late 2018 set off the Yellow Vest movement, a vaccine mandate appears to be the straw that broke the French Caribbean’s back. Many wonder if Paris’ offer of autonomy is sincere, or just buying time for long-term repression, like with the Yellow Vests.

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