Sarkozy offers package to end Guadeloupe unrest
French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed new measures to end the violence on the Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe yesterday, including aid to poor families, measures to bring down fuel costs and a break from paying social security contributions to help the residents cope with the economic crisis that has led to violence and riots and has left one person, a union leader, dead.
Sarkozy was under pressure to respond to the protests as the public rioted and ransacked shops and businesses.
"I know the frustrations, the injuries, the suffering that have to be overcome," he said in an address on RFO, the public radio network that serves France's overseas regions.
He offered a package of measures worth 580 million euros ($730 million) to help the overseas regions, including aid to poor families, relief from social security contributions, price controls and measures to bring fuel costs down.
The island has been brought to a standstill for a month due to the rioting mostly over the high cost of living. The protesters wanted a 200 euro a month rise for low income workers but the riots seemed to turn into more of a racial issue as time went on. The lower income workers feel that the island's economy is dominated by the white families that live there.
There is concern that the protests could spill over into mainland France and Sarkozy is planning to travel to Guadeloupe as soon as the protests die down.
"How can we justify the fact that prices in the overseas departements are higher than in the mainland but spending power is lower?" he said.
"How can we justify such a high level of unemployment? How can we justify the monopolies, the excess profits, the guaranteed returns and, why not say it, the exploitation?"
So he has come up with a plan to deal with it. At the moment the trade unions are willing to discuss possible solutions but they want to see the actual agreement first.
The island has a population of 450,000, but an unemployment rate of 20 percent.