Guadeloupe ‘on verge of revolt’ as workers riot over cost of living

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Police used tear gas on protesters during clashes on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, where a four-week strike in protest at the rising cost of living has disrupted commerce and tourism.

Hooded protesters blocked roads with cars and tree trunks and set them alight, while gangs ransacked shops in the economic capital of Pointe-à-Pitre after nightfall on Monday. Dozens of protesters were sprayed with tear gas and detained after hurling stones at police who attempted to remove roadblocks. Victorin Lurel, the Socialist leader of the regional council of Guadeloupe, said the island was “on the verge of revolt” because of the tense stand-off between the security forces – including 100 riot police sent from France last week – and demonstrators. Yesterday, protesters blocked off more roads on the island and the airport was temporarily closed.

Elie Domota, the leader of the Collective Against Exploitation (LKP), a coalition of unions and left-wing groups that launched the strike, warned on local TV: “If anyone injures a member of the LKP or a striker on Guadeloupe, there will be deaths.”

The LKP plans to step up protests this week as the French government had rejected its demand for a €200 (£175) monthly increase in wages for low-wage earners. The strikes have spread to Guadeloupe’s sister island of Martinique, 100 miles to the south, where government offices, schools and banks have been closed for the past ten days and, on Monday, almost 10,000 demonstrators marched to protest against rising food prices and the business elite. Unemployment in France’s département was the highest in the EU during 2007.

President Nicolas Sarkozy is to meet elected representatives from the islands in Paris tomorrow – the first time he has intervened directly.