PARIS (Reuters) – Police reinforcements arrived in the French Caribbean territory of Martinique on Tuesday to restore order after unrest that erupted over COVID-19 measures, in particular the mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers, a government minister said.
Martinique, and before it the nearby island of Guadeloupe, has seen several days of protests against COVID-19 measures that spilled over into violence.
Sebastien Lecornu, the minister for France’s overseas territories, said 70 gendarmes had arrived earlier in the day, in addition to two squadrons that were deployed from metropolitan France unannounced, to help clear road blocks.
“Social dialogue is not possible without a sound basis and that sound basis is the re-establishment of freedoms … and our capacity to re-establish order,” Lecornu told a press conference in Martinique after meeting its leaders and trade unions.
Last week, Paris announced that it would be postponing a requirement that public sector workers in Guadeloupe and Martinique get a COVID-19 vaccination, but the disorder has rumbled on.
The vaccine mandate and other COVID restrictions fanned long-standing grievances over living standards and the relationship between France’s Caribbean islands and Paris.
(Reporting by Richard Lough and Jean Terzian; Editing by Alistair Bell)