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Martinique’s Nightly Curfew Gets Pushed Back 2 Hours As Some COVID Restrictions Are Relaxed

FORT-DE-FRANCE — Health protocols to protect against the coronavirus virus are loosening a little in Martinique. 

The curfew that began in July in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic will be pushed back two hours starting Friday. It will now start at 10 p.m. instead of 8 p.m., the prefecture announced on Tuesday.

Since December 8, night traffic restrictions were in effect from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. But from Friday, “we can move freely. You can go to the cinema or to the restaurant, ”commented on local radio RCI the prefect of Martinique, Stanislas Cazelles. However, he warned that “after 10 p.m., there will be checks on the famous certificates that the population knows well”.

“Very good news for restaurateurs”

The measure was expected among the population but also among professionals. “This is very good news for restaurateurs and also for Martiniquais and Martiniquaises”, reacted the president of the association of restaurateurs of Martinique, Stéphane Magin. This curfew relief has also been welcomed in the sporting world. “The postponement of the curfew to 10 p.m. will allow sport to return to its usual organization”, rejoiced René Méril, president of the Territorial Olympic and Sports Committee of Martinique (CTOSMA).

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Cops Face Gunfire As Lawless Anti-Vaxxers Take To The Streets In Guadeloupe

BASSE-TERRE — One police officer was injured and police faced gunfire during a night of civil unrest over COVID-19 restrictions in Guadeloupe, a French overseas territory in the Caribbean, the island’s local authority said on Friday.

Shops were vandalized and there were attempted robberies during the unrest, focused on Guadeloupe’s largest urban center, Pointe-a-Pitre, the authority said.

Police moved in at dawn to clear blockades set up by protesters.

An 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew has been in force since Jan. 10 in Guadeloupe, where the vaccination rate is much lower than in mainland France, as the island grapples with a new wave of the pandemic fuelled by the Omicron variant.

Similar restrictive measures triggered violent protests last month in Guadeloupe and also Martinique, another French overseas territory in the Caribbean. 

The curbs in Guadeloupe are in contrast to mainland France, where Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced a loosening of COVID curbs next month, despite the number of daily new infections being at a record level.

In Guadeloupe there has been mistrust of the French government’s handling of health crises since the 1970s when many islanders were exposed to toxic pesticides used in banana plantations.

The French government said in November that it was open to discussing autonomy for Guadeloupe if it were in the interest of the people who live there.

—REUTERS

Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Mark Heinrich and Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Rabid Anti-Vaxxers Throw Rocks At Police In Latest COVID Unrest On Guadeloupe

BASSE-TERRE — Protesters attacked police with stones in the early hours of Monday as police moved in to clear out some blockades on Guadeloupe, the authority on the French Caribbean island said, amid ongoing protests against COVID-19 protocols.

The Guadeloupe authority said police had been attacked at the Riviere-des-Peres part of the island as they tried to clear out roads that had been blockaded.

Rabid Anti-Vaxxers Throw Rocks At Police In Latest COVID Unrest On Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe Anti-Riot Police stand guard on a street after French police reinforcements were dispatched due to violent demonstrations which broke out over coronavirus disease (COVID-19) protocols, in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe November 20, 2021. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo

An 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew has been in force since January 10 in Guadeloupe, where the vaccination rate is much lower than in mainland France, as the island grapples with a new wave of the pandemic fueled by the Omicron variant.

—REUTERS

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Rabid Anti-Vaxxers Throw Rocks At Police In Latest COVID Unrest On Guadeloupe
The owner of a sportswear store talks on his mobile phone as he surveys the damage to his business after it was looted, after violent demonstrations which broke out over coronavirus disease (COVID-19) protocols, in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe November 21, 2021. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo
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Martinique Court Dismisses Slavery Reparations Lawsuit

FORT-DE-FRANCE — An appeals court in the French Caribbean island of Martinique on Tuesday dismissed a request from groups seeking slavery reparations in a blow to efforts that began more than 15 years ago.

The court provided several reasons for its ruling, noting there’s a statute of limitations for those crimes and that a French law already allows the implementation of certain measures meant to “bring a memorial contribution to the recognition of slavery and the slave trade” and that it is not for the judiciary to decide if those measures are sufficient.

Patrick Baudouin, one of two lawyers representing the French state, said the judgment “is not a negationist decision that calls into question the abomination of slavery,” but that the plaintiffs are picking the wrong target: “It is not the responsibility of a judge to grant reparations, centuries later.”

Undeterred by Tuesday’s ruling, the International Movement for Reparations and others who joined the lawsuit against the French government vowed to seek a Supreme Court ruling on a civil legal procedure they launched in 2005.

French courts have repeatedly rejected their request, but it was the European Court of Human Rights that kept it alive by making their claims admissible.

“History will prove us right, and time is on our side,” said Garcin Malsa, the movement’s president, adding that “this issue will lay bare the horrors of French and European colonialism. We are going to encourage as many Afro-descendants as possible to file a complaint.”

The issue of reparations is widely debated across the Caribbean, where an estimated 5 million slaves were brought over by colonial powers including England and France and forced to toil on sugar plantations and other fields under brutal conditions.

Aimé Césaire, a poet and politician from Martinique and a founder of the Négritude movement, said in a 2001 interview with the French newspaper L’Express that he did not favor repentance or reparations.

“There is even, in my opinion, a danger to this idea of reparations,” he was quoted as saying. “I would not like it if one fine day Europe says to itself, ‘Well, here is the note or the check, and we are not talking about it anymore!’ There is no possible repair for something that is irreparable and that is not quantifiable.”

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Coast Guard Rescues 3 Dutch And 1 French Boater Adrift for Three Days Near BVI

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, Saint Thomas — U.S. Coast Guard crews and British Virgin Islands authorities rescued four men from a disabled vessel that was adrift for three days near the British Virgin Islands.

Rescued are a French and three Dutch nationals, who were traveling aboard the 30-foot recreational vessel Water Baby Sunday morning from Anguilla, British Virgin Islands to the Caribbean Leeward Island of Sint Maarten, when their vessel reportedly ran out of gas.

“The execution of this search and rescue case was superb and ended up saving four souls that were lost at sea,” Chief Petty Officer Luis Cabrera, Coast Guard Boat Forces St. Thomas chief supervisor.  “Despite the darkness of the night, our Boat Forces crew was able to execute various search patterns and locate the vessel in distress.  We appreciate and thank British Virgin Islands authorities for their collaboration taking over the tow of the vessel and bringing the boaters to safety in Tortola.”

Coast Guard Rescues 3 Dutch And 1 French Boater Adrift for Three Days Near BVI
Coast Guard and British Virgin Islands authorities rescued four men Jan. 11, 2022 from a disabled vessel that was adrift for three days near the British Virgin Islands. Rescued are a French and three Dutch nationals, who were traveling aboard the 30-foot recreational vessel Water Baby Jan. 9, 2022 from Anguilla, British Virgin Islands to the Caribbean Leeward Island of Saint-Maarten, when their vessel reportedly ran out of gas. (U.S. Coast Guard photo).

Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a call at 3:41 p.m. Tuesday from a Virgin Islands Search and Rescue operator, who relayed a report received from a Good Samaritan reporting the distress.  The Good Samaritan further informed of a WhatsApp communication notifying a general location of the distress, approximately 15 nautical miles south of the British Virgin Islands.

Watchstanders diverted a Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft and directed the launch of a 33-Special Purpose Craft from Boat Forces St. Thomas to search.  They also transmitted an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast advising maritime traffic in the area to be on the lookout.  At approximately 7:06 pm Tuesday, watchstanders received a VHF Channel-16 communication from the sailing vessel Pilar reporting the coordinates of a flare sighting observed within the search area. 

The Coast Guard boat crew diverted to investigate and shortly thereafter came upon the Water Baby with its four passengers safely aboard.  The rescued boaters were exhausted, hungry and thirsty, but otherwise appeared to be in good health.  While communicating with the Coast Guard crew, the rescued boaters confirmed being adrift for three days, sending the WhatsAPP communication and firing a flare.

The Coast Guard boat crew took the Water Baby in tow and rendezvoused with the crew of a British Virgin Islands Customs vessel, who continued the tow of the Water Baby and the transport of the boaters to safe haven in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

Channel 16 is the international distress frequency and is received worldwide by any VHF radio. It is used for distress and emergency calls as well as for informational broadcasts from the Coast Guard.

https://www.dvidshub.net/image/7008393/coast-guard-rescues-1-french-and-3-dutch-boaters-adrift-three-days-near-british-virgin-islands

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Dozens Of Violent Anti-Vax Supporters Attack Guadeloupe Hospital Staff

BASSE-TERRE — Dozens of anti-vaccination protesters in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe attacked a hospital director and other medical staff following recent violent demonstrations against vaccines and COVID-19 restrictions, officials said Wednesday.

The attack occurred Tuesday outside the University Hospital Center as police tried to escort the director and other staff elsewhere for safety. The hospital said the director briefly lost consciousness and that the crowd ripped the clothes of the deputy general director and threw urine at both. The car of an executive assistant also was seriously damaged, officials said.

A health workers’ union that organized Tuesday’s demonstration and previous ones that turned violent to protest vaccine requirements and other measures told local media that members are seeking to recover lost wages after being suspended for refusing to become vaccinated as required by law.

Guadeloupe’s prefect, Alexandre Rochatte, condemned the attacks and said the government will prosecute those responsible.

“These deliberate abuses are unacceptable and intolerable,” he said in a statement.

Dozens Of Violent Anti-Vax Supporters Attack Guadeloupe Hospital Staff
Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Meanwhile, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal expressed support for the hospital director, saying Wednesday that what happened is “shameful. It’s revolting. It’s scandalous. And it’s inadmissible in the republic.”

The French government declared a “state of health emergency” for Guadeloupe and several other overseas territories Wednesday, citing a “considerable rise” in virus cases due to omicron’s fast spread and calling it a “health catastrophe putting the population’s health in danger.” The measure allows the government to issue decrees that curtail temporarily freedoms, including restrictions on movements, trade, entrepreneurship and gatherings. It also enables the government to requisition necessary goods and services to fight against a health disaster.

Guadeloupe, an island of some 400,000 people, has one of the lowest vaccination rates in France.

Vaccinations are mandatory for all French health workers, while France’s COVID-19 health pass is required to enter food establishments, cultural venues and sport arenas, and for long-distance travel. The measures have met the stiffest opposition in Guadeloupe and Martinique, prompting rioting that also reflects long-running frustrations over inequality with the French mainland.

Guadeloupe, an overseas department of France, uses the euro currency. One-third of the island’s population lives below the poverty line, and the cost of living is higher than in the French mainland. Water supplies have been a major problem in recent years because of obsolete pipes.

Anger over France’s handling of a toxic pesticide in Caribbean banana fields also has fueled mistrust in the government’s COVID-19 vaccine policies, along with misinformation shared on WhatsApp or Telegram groups.

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Haitian Prime Minister Survives Weekend Assassination Attempt – PM’s Office

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Gunmen unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry during an event on Saturday commemorating the Caribbean country’s independence, his office said in a statement.

Henry’s office said this week that “bandits and terrorists” had tried to shoot the prime minister at a church in the northern city of Gonaives where the ceremony marking the 218th anniversary of independence was taking place.

Video footage broadcast on social media showed Henry and his entourage scrambling toward their vehicles as an armed group began shooting outside the cathedral in Gonaives.

Haitian media pointed to possible gang involvement in the shooting, which they said killed one person and injured two more.

Gangs’ hold on parts of Haiti has strengthened since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July.

Police, who called Saturday’s attack the work of “armed groups,” were unable to immediately confirm casualties. Prior to the incident, a local gang boss had made threats against Henry in local media.

The prime minister’s office said arrest warrants had been issued for the suspects who fired on Henry’s convoy.

The attack has renewed concerns about the safety of officials in Haiti since Moise’s assassination.

Henry, whose administration is facing mounting challenges to its legitimacy, was sworn in as prime minister barely two weeks after Moise’s killing at the hands of suspected mercenaries. The country has yet to set a date to elect Moise’s successor.

[wpedon id=23995]

—REUTERS

Reporting by Gessika Thomas; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Anti-Vaxxers Knock Over Christmas Tree In Zest To Storm Guadeloupe’s Legislature

BASSE-TERREProtesters angry over virus and vaccine rules occupied Guadeloupe’s regional legislature because of stalled negotiations over their grievances about the management of the French Caribbean island.

Regional Council President Ary Chalus agreed to a meeting with some of the protesters’ representatives, the council tweeted after Thursday’s incursion.

Officials in Guadeloupe and Paris denounced the protest action as unacceptable and a threat to the democratically elected body.

Inside the council building, the protesters strung a banner reading “No to Obligatory Vaccination, No to the Health Pass,” according to images posted online by local officials.

Anti-Vaxxers Knock Over Christmas Tree In Zest To Storm Guadeloupe's Legislature

A Christmas tree was shown knocked over.

Labor unions and the Collective Against Exploitation want the French government to abandon a measure ordering health workers to be suspended without pay unless they are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The protesters in Guadeloupe are also seeking better access to clean water, pension and wage increases, and mass employment.

Vaccinations are mandatory for all French health workers and a “health pass” is required to enter all restaurants and many venues in France.

The measures have met the stiffest opposition in Guadeloupe and Martinique, reflecting long-running frustrations over inequality with the French mainland.

Anti-Vaxxers Knock Over Christmas Tree In Zest To Storm Guadeloupe's Legislature

Guadeloupe, an overseas department of France, uses the euro currency.

One-third of the island’s population lives below the poverty line, and the cost of living is higher than in the French mainland.

Water supplies have been a major problem in recent years because of obsolete pipes.

Anger over France’s handling of a toxic pesticide in Caribbean banana fields has fuelled mistrust in the government’s COVID-19 vaccine polices, along with misinformation shared on WhatsApp or Telegram groups.

Virus infections are again on the rise in Guadeloupe, and the prefecture on Thursday extended restrictions through January 6 requiring masks outdoors in public places as well as indoors, and a health pass for tourist activities like diving trips.

Healthworkers who did not want to be vaccinated will be suspended from December 31 but can be helped to transition into other work.

France’s Caribbean territories, remnants of the colonial era, are seen as luxury holiday destinations by people in mainland France. But residents there believe they have long suffered from neglect by Paris, which has resulted in living standards well below the French average.

[wpedon id=23995]

Anti-Vaxxers Knock Over Christmas Tree In Zest To Storm Guadeloupe's Legislature
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French Interior Minister Heads To Caribbean Territories to Defuse Tensions

PARIS — France’s minister for overseas territories will hold crisis talks on its Caribbean islands starting today, an official said, as the government looks to defuse tensions after more than a week of unrest stemming from its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic there.

“I don’t think we will return to Paris necessarily having resolved the whole crisis, but if we take things bit by bit and methodically, it will calm things and open a constructive dialogue with all the actors,” an official close to Minister Sebastian Lecornu told Reuters before the delegation arrives in Guadeloupe later today.

A plan for compulsory vaccination for health workers stoked a sentiment among the majority Black population of Guadeloupe and Martinique of being excluded and marginalized from the mainland, although the same measure had already been introduced on the mainland.

The issue sparked protests and fanned longstanding grievances over living standards and the relationship with Paris. Protesters have insisted they should be allowed to make their own choices about health treatment.

On Friday, the government postponed the requirement that public sector health workers on the two islands be vaccinated, but local officials have demanded more dialogue with the central government.

In Guadeloupe, where protests began more than a week ago, there is a historic mistrust of the government’s handling of health crises after many people were systematically exposed to toxic pesticides used in banana plantations in the 1970s.

However, unions in Martinique signed on Saturday an accord with local officials and the state to begin talks on key issues ranging from health, energy prices, youth and transport.

Curfews have helped restore some calm in recent days after violence that saw stores looted and police shot at.

Lecornu said on Saturday that the government was ready to discuss autonomy for the islands.

“It’s not a dirty word in the Republic. (French) Polynesia is autonomous today with its own laws, so the minister is ready to open the debate,” the official said.

REUTERS

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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France Caves To Violent Protests In Martinique, Guadeloupe Over COVID Rules

PARIS — France has postponed a mandatory coronavirus vaccination requirement for health workers in Guadeloupe and Martinique, after the measure spurred several days of widespread protests and unrest in the French Caribbean territories.

In a statement today, the French health ministry said the implementation of the vaccination requirement – also in place in mainland France – would be pushed back until December 31 to allow for dialogue.

Protests intensified in Martinique overnight, with French officials saying journalists and security forces had been attacked.

“If the law of the Republic is to apply to all French departments, and therefore to Guadeloupe and Martinique, the details of its application must be adapted to the health and social situation of these two territories,” the health ministry said in the statement.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Friday that 10 arrests were made in Martinique and neighboring Guadeloupe after several journalists and members of the security forces were targeted.

“Everything is being done to find those responsible,” he wrote on Twitter.

Ten police officers were injured in Martinique on Thursday, including five by gunfire, the AFP news agency reported, citing police figures.

Demonstrators have taken to the streets in Martinique and Guadeloupe during the past week to protest mandatory vaccination rules for health workers and other restrictions related to COVID-19.

In addition to ending the vaccination mandate, demonstrators have been calling for salary increases and lower petrol prices. Protesters have set fire to tyres and rubbish bins and blocked roadways over the past several days.

“Last night was clearly more intense than the nights before,” a spokesman for the French state in Martinique told Reuters on Friday.

Reporters Without Borders said journalists from AFP, BFM TV, and Abaca Press were targeted with live ammunition while covering the outbreak of violence in Fort-de-France, Martinique, and called on the authorities to quickly investigate what happened.

AFP reported that men on a motorbike shot at four journalists, including a photographer from the news agency, late on Thursday, but no one was injured.

Martinique and Guadeloupe, islands of 375,000 and 400,000 people, respectively, are considered formal parts of France. The inhabitants of the islands have French citizenship and are allocated representation in the French National Assembly.

But the territories suffer higher poverty and unemployment rates than mainland France, and the protests have put a spotlight on local anger over broader issues with the French government.

“This is about many people in Guadeloupe feeling as if the French government [is] constantly telling them what to do, even though they are some 7,000 kilometres away in Paris,” Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler reported earlier this week from Pointe-a-Pitre.

Sebastien Lecornu, France’s minister responsible for overseas territories, held videoconference discussions with Guadeloupean officials on Thursday and Friday in a push to reach a solution to the unrest.

Lecornu is expected to travel “shortly” to the territories, AFP reported on Friday, citing an aide to the minister.