Violent protests have broken out in the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe after Paris made COVID vaccination mandatory for health workers.
What began as a small picket in front of the main Hospital in Pointe-à-Pitre grew violent over the weekend, as protesters looted shops and set automobiles on fire. The violence has led the authorities to impose a night curfew across the island.
The violence is a byproduct of a longstanding frustration among the local residents over rising unemployment and the higher living costs, say analysts.
French President Emmanuel Macron has asked officials to convince people that vaccination is the best protection against the coronavirus, acknowledging that “historical tensions” are also at play.
In fact, the local residents are afraid of using any medicine authorized by the government. That’s because farmers on the island sprayed a pesticide called chlordecone on banana plants for two decades. Unfortunately, the pesticide turned out to be cancerous. “Nearly all the adult local residents have traces of it in their blood,” says a BBC report published in 2019.
Despite the fear, around 40% of Guadeloupe’s population is fully vaccinated, while the figure is 90% in the mainland.
Meanwhile, labor unions on the nearby island of Martinique have also called for a general strike over similar health concerns.