Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bread Being Rationed in Martinique, Riots in Guadeloupe

As President Nicolas Sarkozy prepared Tuesday to meet with labor unions and employer representatives to try to head off mounting unrest over France's declining economy, a month-long general strike on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe escalated into widespread rioting, raising fears that political violence would spread to other French territories.

Protesters ransacked shops and torched vehicles in Guadeloupe overnight as a strike over the cost of living escalated, and one senior local official said the island was "on the verge of revolt."

Trees and smoking car wrecks were strewn across streets in Guadeloupe's largest town, Pointe-à-Pitre, and in other areas including Sainte-Rose in the north after a night of clashes between the police and protesters, although no injuries were reported.

Tear gas was fired during a standoff overnight between a group of 60 protesters and two squadrons of riot police, according to the French newspaper Le Monde, which reported that some protesters were armed with shotguns.

Interior Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie issued a statement appealing for "calm, responsibility and restraint." The French government, which last week deployed 100 riot police officers to Guadeloupe, has become worried about violence spreading to other French territories.


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