French special forces go to Guadeloupe amid COVID riots | Economic news

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PARIS (AP) – French authorities send special police forces to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, a French overseas territory, as protests against COVID-19 restrictions escalated into riots.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin denounced “unacceptable” violence in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper published on Sunday. He indicated that 50 agents of the special police forces were to arrive in Guadeloupe. They are in addition to the 200 other police officers sent to the Caribbean island from mainland France.

The move comes after days of protests and roadblocks.

Darmanin said following an emergency meeting on Saturday in Paris that “shots were fired at police officers” in Guadeloupe and that there was looting. Videos posted on social media showed street equipment, cars and some buildings were set on fire.

French media said several buildings in downtown Pointe-à-Pitre, the island’s largest city, had been destroyed.

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The roadblocks put hospitals in “a very difficult situation for a few hours” during which patients and supplies could not reach hospitals, including resulting in unserved meals, Darmanin said on Saturday.

“The state will stand firm,” he said, adding that at least 31 people had been arrested by police.

The prefect of Guadeloupe Alexandre Rochatte has imposed a night curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. since Friday.

Rochatte said in a statement on Saturday that some electrical installations near the dams had been damaged, causing outages for some customers. He warned of the risk of electrocution for those staying near the roadblocks and urged people never to touch power cables.

The protests were called by unions to denounce the COVID-19 health pass required to access restaurants and cafes, cultural venues, sports arenas and long-distance travel. Demonstrators are also protesting against compulsory vaccinations in France for healthcare workers.

The pass shows people are fully vaccinated, have had a recent negative test, or have evidence of a recent recovery from COVID-19.

Darmanin said about 80% of the island’s health workers have been vaccinated.

Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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