French Guiana: Workers extend strike, erect more barricades

The protests also led to the indefinite postponement of an Arianespace rocket launch at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The movement behind weeks of social unrest in French Guiana, a French colony in South America of about a quarter of a million people, said on April 17 it would extend protest actins until the government signs a draft accord on an emergency financial package and reopens talks on further funds.

The Collective to Get Guiana Moving summed up its demands in a seven-page draft sent to the government on April 16. If accepted the movement said it would “suspend the movement in its present form”.

“To make a swift pact, we have an obligation to harden the movement,” Valerie Vanoukia said on behalf of the collective after a general meeting calling on the population to remobilise.

The barricades, which had been lifted for Easter, were back in place by April 17 — and Vanoukia said even more will be erected across the territory.

The draft accord calls for an emergency plan for the government to invest more than US$1 billion and proposes reopening the dialogue on more than $2 billion the protesters have demanded in addition.

Vanoukia stressed that in the original government text, questions on health, education, land and the communes “have not received any real answers”. She said two points were non-negotiable: “The government must act on the fact that the Guianese people want to take charge”, and no demonstrators taking part in the movement should face punishment.

A blockade of the port in the capital Cayenne has caused the flow of fresh produce slow to a trickle in the territory bordering Surinam and northern Brazil on the north-east coast of South America.

The protests also led to the indefinite postponement of an Arianespace rocket launch at the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou. The space centre has become a symbol of economic disparity in French Guiana and a focus of anger, given many locals have no electricity or running water and about one in four is jobless.

 

The country has been administered as a French territory since the end of the 18th century. It was used as a place to send convicts for forced labour until 1946.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

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