Mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for firefighters and healthcare workers in the French Caribbean territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique come into force today.
Originally set for November 15th, the mandate was delayed due to widespread protests, strikes and rioting. Last week, protesters occupied government buildings in Guadeloupe and demanded that measures for vaccine mandates and passes be rescinded.
Only 43% of the island’s adult population have received at least one vaccine dose, compared to 89% in Metropolitan France, due to distrust in the government caused by a pesticide scandal in the mid-1990s. In November, France’s Minister of Territorial Development—Sebastien Lecornu—proposed increased autonomy on healthcare issues in the islands in a bid to quell the unrest.
Expect the deadline to increase the size of protests in the short-term as newly suspended workers join them. Follow-through on promises of autonomy will likely hurt French President Emmanuel Macron’s prospects in presidential elections in 2022, as his conservative rivals will use the concessions as an example of him undermining French unity. Any concessions on autonomy will likely lead to similar demands in France’s other overseas territories as well as renewed independence demands from separatists in New Caledonia.
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Kyle is a Publisher and Analyst on the Analysis team. He specializes in foreign policy and human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a particular focus on Mexico and Central America.