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A general strike on the French West Indian island of Guadeloupe has spread to nearby Martinique and, in its third week, erupted in violence. After weeks of peaceful protest, barricades were thrown up, shops ransacked and a trade union activist shot dead. The strikers say that they pay higher prices than those in mainland France but are often poorly paid. Behind the discontent over day-to-day problems lies a history of colonialism and slavery which adds to a bitter mix. Sarah Elzas is reporting for RFI from Guadeloupe.

French overseas territories

Youths face French police in Réunion(Photo: AFP)

Police wounded by gunfire in Martinique, protests close shops in Réunion

Four police officers were slightly wounded during clashes between bosses and strikers on the French West Indian island of Martinique on Friday, as negotiations continued on the 30th day of the strike there. On the Indian Ocean island of Réunion, protesters closed supermarkets in support for their demands for wage rises and lower prices.

2009-03-07 14:53 TU

French overseas departments

Guadeloupe prefect Nicolas Desforges (l) and strike leader Elie Domota (c) sign a deal ending the strike, Pointe-a-Pitre, 4 March 2009(Photo: Reuters)

Strike ends in Guadeloupe, gears up in Reunion Island

A 44-day general strike in Guadeloupe ended Wednesday night, with the signature of an agreement to improve living standard. Trade unions on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean called for a strike movement to start Tuesday, demanding similar measures.

2009-03-05 11:02 TU

French Caribbean

A march in Fort-de-France, Martinique, 2 March 2009.(Photo: AFP)

Deal in Martinique, strike goes on

Despite deals signed to raise salaries by 200 euros on Saturday in Guadeloupe and Monday night in Martinique, the two French departments in the Caribbean are still at a standstill more than seven weeks after the beginning of a general strike.

2009-03-03 14:18 TU

French Caribbean

LPK union leader Elie Domota (2nd L) signs an agreement with two employer groups, Pointe-a-Pitre, Feb. 26, 2009.  Photo: REUTERS/Gilles Petit

Thousands turn out in Paris for Guadeloupe/Martinique

Several thousand people demonstrated in the east of Paris on Saturday to show support for those in Guadeloupe and Martinique, both French overseas departments, in the Caribbean where cost-of-living strikes have brought everyday life to a standstill for several weeks.

2009-02-28 19:05 TU

French Caribbean

Elie Domota, leader of the LKP(Photo: Reuters)

Government and some bosses sign deal in Guadeloupe

“We got our 200 euros, it’s OK,” exclaimed union leader Rosan Mounien after signing a deal that cedes to Guadeloupe strikers’ chief demand. After a second night of negotiations, the government and the strikers signed the deal. But several employers’ representatives did not show up to the meeting.

2009-02-28 10:39 TU

French Caribbean

Willy Angèle, head of the local employers union in Guadeloupe.(Photo: Reuters)

Deal in Guadeloupe, rioting in Martinique

On the French West Indian island of Guadeloupe, a deal to end the month-long strike has been reached in principle. It concedes the strikers' primary demand, a 200-euro raise for low-income workers, though no deal has been formally signed. Meanwhile, in neighbouring Martinique, rioters burned storefronts and cars.

2009-02-26 12:43 TU


French Caribbean – interview

(Photo: Sarah Elzas)

Quiet Mardi Gras in Guadeloupe as strike negotiations are postponed, and tourists stay away

The streets of Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, were deserted Tuesday afternoon, which these days is not so unusual, since the French island has been shut down by a general strike for the past five weeks. But this was not just any Tuesday: it was Mardi Gras, usually a day of Carnaval marches, but this year it was silent, because the mayor cancelled the festivities.

2009-02-25 07:44 TU

French Caribbean

Demonstrators take part in a protest over economic conditions in Pointe-a-Pitre.(Credit: Reuters)

Negotiations to end Guadeloupe strike stall

Strikers in the French West Indian island of Guadeloupe upped the pressure Monday night, after a day of fruitless negotiations with bosses. They called for the month-long general strike to continue.

2009-02-24 12:25 TU

French Caribbean - photoreport

A Musician blows a conch shell during the funeral march, a symbol of the emancipation of slavery.(Photo: Sarah Elzas)

Thousands turn out for trade unionist’s funeral in Guadeloupe

Negotiations between union leaders and employers on the French island of Guadeloupe were suspended over the weekend for the funeral of a trade unionist who was shot dead last week. Jacques Bino was killed Tuesday night at a barricade by a bullet whose origin is yet to be identified, although police insist that they did not fire it.

2009-02-23 15:48 TU

French Caribbean - report

Strike supporters wearing LKP t-shirts(Credit: S. Elzas)

Guadeloupe strike to continue over the weekend

After several hours of talks with business representatives, leaders of the general strike on the French island of Guadeloupe announced Friday evening that negotiations were suspended until Monday.

2009-02-21 12:51 TU

French Caribbean - interviews

(Photo: Sarah Elzas)

Some Guadeloupe shops reopen, business owners prepare negotiations

Shops began reopening in strike-bound Guadeloup Friday, as businesses hope that the month-long stoppage will soon be over. Talks are set to resume later in the day.

2009-02-20 17:36 TU

French Caribbean - report

The LKP at the negotiating table (left) with repesentatives of the prefecture (right) (Photo: Sarah Elzas)

Sarkozy responds to Guadeloupe strike after a month of crisis

As the general strike on the French West Indian island of Guadeloupe marked its 30th day, French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised more than half a billion euros in subsidies in a televised address. Sarkozy, who has been criticised for being slow to respond to the crisis, promised to go to the island if the current unrest dies down. Strike leaders declared the offer vague.

2009-02-20 10:41 TU

French Caribbean - report

A strike leader addresses the crowd(Photo: Sarah Elzas)

Strikers mourn death of Guadeloupe trade unionist

On the day after the death of a trade unionist on the strike-hit island of Guadeloupe, his comrades gathered to pay tribute to his memory, discuss who was to blame for the death and insist that their struggle for better pay will go on.

2009-02-19 15:25 TU

French Caribbean – report

Queues at petrol stations continue in Guadeloupe(Photo: AFP)

Guadeloupe and Martinique deadlocked, frustration rises

Negotiations between employee unions and employers to end strike movements in the French departments of Guadeloupe and Martinique are deadlocked. People are increasnigly frustrated over the lack of food in supermarkets and petrol in gas stations.

2009-02-19 09:31 TU

Other overseas French territories

French Polynesia

Oscar Temaru( Photo: AFP )

Separatist elected Tahiti President, compromises on independence

2009-02-12 12:49 TU

French Polynesia

Gaston Flosse (L) and Oscar Temaru(Photo: AFP)

The politicians and the parties

2009-02-12 13:15 TU

French Polynesians celebrate their culture in Paris

Laura Angela Bagnetto meets Paris-based Polynesians far from home: Tahitian choreographer Andrea Terai and the tattoo artist Hina Tetaupu from Tuamotu Island.

(Photo: Ahu Tiare Nui)