French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni, arrived in the French Caribbean island of Martinique on Friday amid chants of “Sarko! Sarko!” from an excited crowd, the Associated Press reports.
But neither spoke as they shook hands with several people and were later whisked to a hotel in the island’s southeast.
The couple stopped first to visit with Mireille Millou, the sister of Aime Cesaire, a renowned poet and politician whose anti-colonialist philosophy had worldwide influence. He died in April 2008.
Sarkozy’s office issued a statement saying the government will honour Cesaire in April with a ceremony at the famous Pantheon in Paris, which will bear a plaque with his name.
Sarkozy reiterated that Cesaire’s body would remain in Martinique, as requested.
On Saturday morning, Sarkozy is expected to meet with officials to talk about tourism and economic development in Martinique, which is still struggling to recover from violent protests nearly two years ago that paralyzed the island’s economy and scared away tourists. Protesters were demanding higher wages and lower food prices.
Roughly 50,000 people are unemployed in Martinique, which is home to 400,000 inhabitants.
Sarkozy is expected to arrive in the neighbouring French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe on Saturday afternoon.