Protests over the cost of living that have paralysed the Carribbean island of Guadaloupe have spread to other overseas French territories. Long queues seen at the petrol stations were just one symptom of the hardships people are enduring with a general strike now in its fourth week.
President Nicolas Sarkoy has intervened for the first time, speaking of the need for profound changes in the islands’ economies, without announcing concrete measures. Talks between unions and the government show little signs of progress. One union leader said he believes similar protest movements are starting up in other territories, including Martinique, French Guyana and Reunion. He added it could spread to mainland France in the coming days. Prices of many staple items are much higher in the islands than in the rest of France due to the cost of imports. At the same time, the average salaries are lower and unemployment is higher. The widespread action is having a big impact on tourism, the territories’ main industry, and that will only worsen economic conditions.