OF ALL the voters fuming about neglect by out-of-touch politicians in distant Paris, the people of French Guiana have perhaps the strongest case. It is the second-poorest of France’s five overseas departments (DOMs). The unemployment rate, at over 20%, is more than double that of the mainland. Some 40% live in poverty. The murder rate is the highest in France.
The department is entering its fifth week of a general strike. Thousands of Guianese have taken to the streets to protest against high living costs, lack of jobs and crime. The demonstrations started on March 20th, when workers from Endel-Engie, an engineering firm, and EDF, the local energy utility, blocked roads outside the coastal city of Kourou to prevent the launch of a rocket from the Guiana Space Centre, which is based near the city.
The space centre is the main launching pad for the European Space Agency, owing to Guiana’s location close to the equator (to take advantage of the earth’s spin) and by an ocean (to reduce the chances that a botched launch will rain debris on people’s heads). It is also a symbol of the mainland’s apathy: a few…Continue reading