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No let up in looting, rioting as France sends special forces to Guadeloupe

French Prime Minister Jean Castex is due to meet in Paris with Guadeloupe officials on Monday to discuss the law and order situation.

Trade unions in Guadeloupe started an indefinite strike this week to protest the compulsory vaccination of health workers against Covid-19 and health pass requirements. (Reuters)

The French overseas territory of Guadeloupe has been hit by a third night of looting and rioting amid protests against Covid-19 measures.

Authorities said on Sunday that police arrested 38 people as gunmen fired at police and firefighters while shops were broken into and cars set ablaze.

Special police forces were due to arrive from mainland France to the Caribbean archipelago on Sunday to restore order.

“This situation cannot be accepted nor tolerated,” government spokesperson Gabriel Attal told Europe 1 radio.

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Guadeloupe’s prefect, Alexandre Rochatte, who represents the French government, said in a statement on Sunday that armed groups had tried to loot stores in Pointe-a-Pitre, Basse-Terre and Lamentin and battled police.

Shots were fired at police and firemen trying to put out blazes.

Four pharmacies were broken into and cars set on fire while barricades were erected to stop security forces from intervening, the prefect added.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Saturday that France would send about 50 members of the GIGN and RAID elite tactical forces of the gendarmerie and police to the territory.

Prime Minister Jean Castex is also due to meet on Monday in Paris with Guadeloupe officials to discuss the situation.

Rochatte on Friday had imposed a curfew from 6 pm to 5 am following five days of civil unrest during which barricades burned in the streets and firefighters and doctors walked out on strike.

Fragile health system

The doctors’ union in Guadeloupe warned against further trouble while the health system was so “fragile”.

They criticised “individuals who may have prevented patients from getting access to treatment, or medical staff from reaching their place of practice”.

While most people in mainland France have now received two vaccination doses, rates in its overseas territories have lagged behind.

By November 16, some 46 percent of adults in Guadeloupe had received at least one jab of a vaccine against Covid-19.

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