Third night of violence in Guadeloupe as France sends special police forces


POINTE-A-PITRE, Guadeloupe, November 21 (Reuters) – The French overseas territory of Guadeloupe has been hit by a third night of looting and riots amid protests against COVID-19 measures, with gunmen shooting at police and firefighters, authorities said on Sunday.

Police arrested 38 people as shops were broken into and cars set on fire.

Special police forces were to arrive Sunday from mainland France in the Caribbean archipelago to restore order.

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“This situation can neither be accepted nor tolerated,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told Europe 1 radio.

A sign that the unrest could spread to other overseas territories in the Caribbean, unions called for a general strike on the island of Martinique from Monday, French media reported.

The strike notice demands an end to compulsory vaccination of health workers as well as support to deal with high fuel prices.

The prefect of Guadeloupe, Alexandre Rochatte, who represents the French government, said in a statement that armed groups had tried to loot shops in Pointe-à-Pitre, Basse-Terre and Lamentin and had fought the police.

Shots were fired at police and firefighters trying to put out the flames. Four pharmacies were broken into and cars set on fire while barricades were erected to prevent security forces from intervening, added the prefect.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said on Saturday that France would send around fifty members of the elite tactical forces of the GIGN and the RAID of the gendarmerie and the police to the territory.

Prime Minister Jean Castex is also due to meet Guadeloupe officials in Paris on Monday to discuss the situation.

Rochatte had imposed a curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Friday after five days of civil unrest during which barricades burned in the streets and firefighters and doctors went on strike.

Guadeloupe unions launched an indefinite strike last Monday to protest against the compulsory vaccination of health workers against COVID-19 and the requirements of the health passport.

Guadeloupe and Martinique have a deeply rooted history of vaccine reluctance amid mistrust of the Paris government.

Data from the Ministry of Health shows that so far, 38% of the population had received a first COVID vaccine in Martinique and 36% in Guadeloupe, against 77% of the French population.

In August, the Paris government was forced to call in doctors and nurses from mainland France to volunteer in Guadeloupe and Martinique, as a wave of infections engulfed hospitals.

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Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Additional reporting by Richard Lough, editing by Angus MacSwan and Daniel Wallis

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