COHA reports on social unrest in Guadeloupe

guadeloupe

The Council of Hemispheric Affairs has just posted their analysis of the unrest that plagued Guadeloupe and other French Overseas Territories earlier this year. The unrest began on January 19, when the Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon (LKP, or “Stand up Against Exploitation”) movement initiated a series of peaceful protests in Guadeloupe. An early focus on relief from the exorbitant cost of living and a call for a €200-a-month pay increase soon gave way to widespread violence and property destruction. In its analysis, COHA concludes that “Guadeloupians had good reason to revolt. The cost of living on the French-Caribbean island is four times more than in France, yet the average GDP per capita is merely half that of their mainland counterparts . Moreover, growing unemployment rates and deepening rural poverty continue to be a constant concern on the island.” Despite substantial subsidies from the French government, there are “sharp disparities” between the quality of life in the overseas territories and in metropolitan France.

A general malaise of neglect, fueled by episodic insubordination, is being experienced throughout the French overseas départments. Although all of them have representation in the French Assembly, in reality their political influence in Paris is negligible. To a large degree, mainland French representatives only travel back to these territories during election years or for sun-drenched weekend winter getaways. In spite of the island’s formal status as a départment of France — from which it undoubtedly benefits economically and socially — there is an underlying, although waning, sense of deference on the part of Guadeloupians to mainland France. For many, granting the overseas territories their independence would seem to be a practical solution to an inherently fractious situation. Yet, it is not all that cut and dry because Guadeloupians overwhelmingly rejected a 2003 referendum that, if passed, would have markedly increased the island’s autonomy. Rather than increased monetary aid or demanding self-government, Guadeloupians are simply requesting acknowledgement that they are, in fact, a part of the French Republic.

For the complete report go to http://www.coha.org/2009/05/guadeloupe-%E2%80%93-another-french-caribbean-hot-spot/

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