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France mulls some autonomy for Caribbean territories amid COVID-19 riots

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By Euronews
France mulls some autonomy for Caribbean territories amid COVID-19 riots
Copyright  screenshot via AFP video

Efforts to tackle COVID-19 have sparked violent protests on the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.

Four people were shot and a number of businesses destroyed in Martinique as riots spiralled out of control on Saturday night.

"I expected them to break and enter, but not to set fire to a gas station. Do you realise that! A gas station is a bomb," said Micheline Germack, a manager of a burnt gas station.

Meanwhile, some 200 km away in Pointe-a-Pitre, the capital of French overseas territory Guadeloupe, more than 2,000 people came out to rally against coronavirus measures on Saturday.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted persisting inequality on the island and is fuelling long-standing tensions with the mainland.

On Friday, Sébastien Lecornu, the French Minister of Overseas Territories, said he was "ready" to discuss the autonomy of Guadeloupe, adding that "there are no bad debates".

"We understand, we the people, and even the elected officials, that we do not have much control here in Guadeloupe in terms of decisions. We need to educate the Guadeloupean people, so that they can learn what autonomy means," reacted Guadeloupean businessman Alex Vindex at a protest. 

But the proposal drew sharp criticism from conservative and far-right candidates for France’s April presidential election.

Frustrations over the government’s mishandling of a toxic pesticide, chlordecone which was used to cultivate bananas on the island until 1993, had led to widespread distrust.

Many islanders do not support the idea that health workers should be vaccinated while the COVID certificate, barring the unvaccinated from entering bars and restaurants has also proved to be unpopular.