As Guadeloupe's general strike against rising prices spreads across the Caribbean, a union official is shot dead.
Local officials states that union representative Jacques Bino, aged in his 50s, was shot dead in a crossfire while driving his car near a roadblock manned by armed youths, who opened fire at police in the capital Pointe-a-Pitre.
Workers in Guadeloupe launched a general strike on 20 January in protest at the rising cost of living.
Most businesses, services and government departments across the island have been totally shut down since the strike began, and over a quarter of the population has taking to the streets.
Earlier this month workers in neighbouring Martinique joined the strike, and last night saw heavy rioting as impoverished residents escalated their struggle. Protesters burned shops and businesses and erected roadblocks with overturned cars and chopped down coconut trees.
Strikers warned that the government was preparing to murder demonstrators in order to quell the rebellion, after heavily armed French gendarmes were sent to the region.
Despite emissaries sent from Paris, and the dispute being isolated by French unions , the strike has continued with shops out of stocks and petrol pumps running dry. At the height of the tourist season, two thirds of the 15,000 hotel beds in Guadeloupe are empty.
The Hindu reported that the strike is also being played out in the backdrop of tensions between the original inhabitants of the islands and the “Bekes”, white colonisers who used slave labour to cultivate huge plantations until slavery was abolished in 1848. Former slave owners and a small white minority have kept a tight grip on the islands’ economy ever since. “The situation in Guadeloupe is not far from social apartheid,” warned Christiane Taubura, an MP from French Guyana. “The leaders of the strikers are not anti-white racists. They are exposing a reality...a caste holds economic power and abuses it,” she told Le Journal du Dimanche.
The islands rely almost exclusively on imports sold in French-owned supermarkets at significantly higher prices than in France. A packet of rice or pasta, for instance, costs 90 per cent higher than in the “metropole”. Petrol too is far more expensive.