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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Guadeloupe Un mouvement qui reveille les consciences

by Fernand Nouvet

Guadeloupe: A Consciousness-Raising Movement

Translated Thursday 19 February 2009, by John O’Neil

Between 60,000 and 80,000 people gathered in Le Moule on 14 February to commemorate the massacre which took place on the same date in 1952 in a brilliant insult against the government.

Pointe a Pitre, Special Correspondent

Yves Jego, France’s Minister for Overseas Territories made it known that “The State will enforce the law in Guadeloupe.” For his part, Nicolas Sarkozy announced the appointment of a government body to review government policies in the overseas territories. A measure which one thinks concerns Martinique, Reunion and all other overseas departments and territories as well as Guadeloupe as it would allow them to stand up to the French government. But on the 26th day of strikes, Guadeloupe does not seem to have weakened its resolve or to have backed down to threats. “Guadeloupe is with us, Guadeloupe is not with them,” is the chant of thousands of Guadeloupean voices led by the Collective Against Exploitation, or LKP.

While the government’s strategy seems to be crafty, the LKP’s determination seems to be stronger as they wait to go back to the negotiation table to sign the draft statutory agreement reached more than a week ago and “dictated by Yves Jego himself.”

A strong LKP...

The minister was able to quiet the capital by leaving two mediators in Guadeloupe. But they haven’t had anything new to say. This has pushed the LKP to “clearly inform the two mediators that they had nothing further to say to each other.”

A LKP which is continuing to show its strength. On 14 February, concluding a week filled with demonstrations protesting the high cost of living, the collective switched to expressing its anger on a grander scale in Le Moule commemorating the assassination of five sugar cane workers beaten to death by riot police in the city in 1952 as a government response to “troublemakers” who were demonstrating to get a pay raise. And the LKP’s action which mobilized 60,000 to 80,000 people on Saturday afternoon was a way to warn the government that Guadeloupeans will no longer just let things go. The city of Le Moule, which was looking for a way to participate in the “Collective,” went in in the right way: With the memory of the “Moulians” a demonstration like something never seen before. Large and small, black and white, all dressed in red, black and green it was a colorful crowd raising consciousness all along the demonstration.

From the morning on, all of the LKP supporters came to keep up to date just like at the beginning of the movement in front of the palace of the Mutualite and in Pointe-a-Pitre. A woman, seen the day before, asks who I was and then explained to me as the noise was rushing through the esplanade that there was a Martiniquan who certain appeared to be a member of police intelligence asking questions and taking notes...this shows the level of alertness that LKP supporters were exhibiting. Everyone was saying that police reinforcements have arrived from the capital. Since the impasse in negotiations people were beginning to see threats looming.

... has not had its last word

In the morning, the discount market was in full swing. Vegetables for distribution from local gardens for those who want them for practically nothing: Yams, bananas, sweet potatoes... to replace the pastries, rice and other foods that high cost of living puts almost out of reach. “I’m here for my principles.” Jean Laguerre tells me. Former police officer and mayor of Goyave and now banana grower, he comes to “make his contribution to the strike.” To do this, he gives away bananas. Perched on the back of a pick-up truck, he keeps giving them away until he runs out. Then he promises to “try to do this three times per week” in solidarity.

Friday night, despite a little rain, a spectacle was planned in front of the palace of the Mutualite. The Canal Plus showing of Derniers Maîtres de la Martinique (The Last Masters of Martinique) stirred up trouble in Martinique because of racist comments by the Beke Despointes. The Guadeloupeans were forewarned. They knew that above all it wasn’t necessary that they let their hearts speak while watching the film. After the spectacle, Christiane Taubira, an MP from Guyana announced that she was joining the march to Le Moule.
Even if measures are taken, one notes that an increasing number of gas stations are open, that stores a few everywhere are following the same trend of opening in spite of the LKP’s requests, the LKP has not had its final say and, at the beginning of this week, the temperature in Guadeloupe was at high risk of becoming very hot.

In Pointe a Pitre, Victorin Lurel, Socialist president of the regional council and Jacques Gillot, president of the general council have asked for a “relaxation of the general strike so that the country can run more normally.” They have also asked to be received by president Nicolas Sarkozy. The two officials have proposed a “salary premium”grant of 100 euros per month for a few months for those who make less than 1.4 times the minimum wage. LKP leader Elie Domota rejected the proposition calling on the state and the bosses to “keep their commitments” signing the accord reached last week envisioning a 200 euro raise for the lowest paid workers. In Martinique which has been paralyzed for 10 days, several MP’s – of which Alfred Almont (UMP), Louis-Joseph Manscour (PS) and Alfred Marie-Jeanne (MIM, independence party) – invited strikers to "loosen the vise."

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