Strikes Shut Down French Guiana, With Effects Resonating in Paris

A general strike and widespread protests over high crime and economic hardship paralyzed French Guiana on Monday, as the government struggled to quell growing unrest that has disrupted travel, closed schools and thrust one of France’s often-overlooked overseas territories into the spotlight of the presidential campaign.


The French prime minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, announced on Monday that a delegation of ministers would travel to the South American territory by the end of the week to try to address demands by protesters, who have refused to negotiate with lower-level officials.


The unrest has shuttered schools and blocked access to the main airport; prompted a travel alert from the State Department of the United States; and even postponed the launch of an Ariane 5 rocket, carrying a Brazilian satellite and a South Korean satellite, from the aerospace center that France and the European Space Agency run off the territory’s coast. Roads to neighboring Brazil and Suriname were also blocked.


French Guiana, which has a population of around 250,000, was settled by the French in the 17th century, becoming a slave colony and then a penal colony. The latest protests have been the largest in French Guiana since 2008, when a strike lasting longer than a week shut down schools and the airport, and compelled the government at the time to cut fuel prices. And there is a long history of such unrest, according to Stephen Toth, an associate professor at Arizona State University who has written a history of French Guiana.







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