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France Mulls Autonomy for Caribbean 'Confetti of Empire' Amid COVID-19 Rule Protests

© REUTERS / RICARDO ARDUENGOUnrest triggered by COVID-19 curbs spreads to Martinique
Unrest triggered by COVID-19 curbs spreads to Martinique - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.11.2021
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France's directly-governed Caribbean provinces were convulsed be protests and rioting this week over vaccine mandates for state employees and vaccine passports ordered by the government thousands of miles away in Paris.
The French government is considering limited autonomy for its Caribbean colony of Guadeloupe after protests against vaccine mandates rocked the island.
Minister of the Overseas Sébastien Lecornu, whose department runs France's remaining overseas territories, said on Friday night that "the government is ready to talk about this".
"There are no bad debates, as long as those debates serve to resolve the real everyday problems of people in Guadeloupe," he added.
"Some elected officials have asked the question, out of the blue, of autonomy," Lecornu said. "According to them, Guadeloupe could better manage itself. They want less equality with France, more freedom of decision by local elected officials".
Protests and rioting broke out in Guadeloupe and the nearby French island of Martinique this week after Paris ordered all unvaccinated public-sector workers to have the COVID-19 jab. The government was forced to postpone implementation of the measure after deploying extra police and imposing a curfew.
Other issues are high unemployment and widespread opposition to 'health passes' or vaccine passports.
Independent conservative politician Xavier Bertrand, who is considering challenging President Emmanuel Macron in next year's election, dismissed the suggestion.
"Guadeloupeans and Martinicans do not want less State, on the contrary: they want the State to stand by their side and assume its responsibilities," Betrand said.
A man rides his bicycle past burned cars after violent demonstrations which broke out over coronavirus disease (COVID-19) protocols, in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe November 21, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.11.2021
France's Guadeloupe Gripped By ‘Extreme Violence’, Rioting and Looting Over COVID-19 Measures
Unlike the UK, France maintains its far-flung 'confetti of empire' of 13 small colonies, mostly islands, as extensions of the western European country.
All except the French Southern and Antarctic Lands elect MPs to the French parliament, from remote corners of North and South America, Africa and Oceania.
Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Mayotte and Reunion are all fully-fledged 'departments' or provinces of France, just as Algeria in North Africa was until it won independence in 1962.
But five smaller island territories have, since 2003, have semi-autonomous status as 'collectivities' with the right to make their own statutory laws.
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