Protesters angry at virus and vaccine rules occupied Guadeloupe’s regional legislature after negotiations over their complaints about the administration of the French Caribbean island stalled.
Regional council president Ary Chalus agreed to meet some of the protesters’ representatives, the council tweeted after the incursion on Thursday. Officials in Guadeloupe and Paris described the protest as unacceptable and a threat to the democratically elected body.
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In the council building, the protesters hung a banner reading, “No to vaccination, no to health passport,” as posted online by local officials. An overturned Christmas tree was shown.
Unions and the Anti-Exploitation Collective are calling for the French government to abandon a measure ordering the unpaid suspension of health workers unless they are vaccinated against COVID-19.
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The protesters in Guadeloupe are also calling for better access to clean water, pensions and wage increases, and mass employment.
Vaccinations are compulsory for all French health workers and a “health passport” is required to enter all restaurants and many venues in France. The measures are meeting with the sharpest opposition in Guadeloupe and Martinique and reflect longstanding frustration over inequality with mainland France.
Guadeloupe, a French overseas department, uses the euro as its currency. A third of the island’s population lives below the poverty line and the cost of living is higher than on mainland France. The water supply has been a major problem in recent years due to outdated plumbing.
Anger over France’s handling of a toxic pesticide in Caribbean banana fields has fueled suspicion of the government’s COVID-19 vaccine policy, along with misinformation shared in WhatsApp or Telegram groups.
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Viral infections are on the rise again in Guadeloupe, and the prefecture on Thursday extended restrictions to January 6, requiring masks to be used outdoors in public places as well as indoors and a health passport for tourist activities such as diving trips.