The leader of the general strike crippling Guadeloupe has accused the French government of preparing to kill protestors to bring an end to the stoppage on the French Caribbean island.
"Today, given the number of gendarmes who have arrived in Guadeloupe armed to the teeth, the French state has chosen its natural path: to kill Gaudeloupeans as usual," Elie Domota said on Saturday.
Domota is the leader of the Collective against Exploitation (LKP), which groups most of Guadeloupe's unions and political parties and which launched the general strike there on January 20th over low wages and the high cost of living.
The LKP is a collective of 48 cultural and social associations, left nationalist groups and trade unions, dominated by the UGTG (General Union of Guadeloupe Workers). The UGTG was set up as part of a nationalist upsurge in the aftermath of the brutal suppression in 1967 of a popular movement for wage rises, led by a strike of building workers, in which over 80 people were killed by the French police. It has become the main trade union in Guadeloupe, receiving 52 percent of the vote in the 2008 elections of representatives on the industrial tribunals.
Domota's accusation came as some supermarkets and petrol stations, which have been shut for more than three weeks, reopened as police stood by to protect the premises against potential protests by strikers on the tropical island.
"Every time there have been demonstrations in Guadeloupe to demand pay rises, the response of the state has been repression, notably in May 1967 in Pointe-a-Pitre where there were 100 deaths, building workers massacred by the gendarmes," Domota said.
On Saturday thousands of workers marched through the town of Le Moule chanting "Guadeloupe is ours, it's not theirs." They were referring to the "Bekes," the white minority which holds economic power on an island where most of the half million residents are descendants of African slaves.
Christiane Taubira, a French member of parliament for the overseas department of French Guiana on the South American continent, warned Sunday that the situation in Guadeloupe was "not far from social apartheid."
She said in an interview that "the leaders of the LKP are not anti-white racists. They are exposing a reality [...] a caste holds economic power and abuses it."
Most shops, cafes, banks, schools and government offices have been shut in Guadeloupe since the start of the strike. A massive demonstration of 25,000 out of a total population of 410,000 took place on January 24th in the capital Pointe-à-Pitre. On January 30th, 65,000 marched again in Pointe-à-Pitre.
The government has said it will not give in to strikers' demands for a monthly EUR200 increase in base salaries.
Meanwhile, the neighbouring French island of Martinique began its own general strike more than a week ago. Twelve trade unions launched a general strike call Feb. 5 against the decrease in purchasing power, which has especially affected the 70,000 people on the island living below the poverty line. On Feb. 9, 25,000 marched there, in the capital Fort-de-France. Martinique’s population is 401,000.