France dispatches ministers to  French Guiana after social unrest

PARIS (Reuters) – Two French ministers will travel to French Guiana  yesterday to seek a solution to protests sweeping the French territory in South America.

Interior Minister Matthias Fekl and Ericka Bareigts, minister for France’s overseas territories, were dispatched to French Guiana by Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

The ministers will hold talks with political, business and social leaders to try to find rapid solutions to local demands, the statement said.

French Guiana has been swept by social unrest in recent days, with protests and a general strike, less than a month before France holds presidential elections.

The movement began with demands for greater security against crime – French Guiana is the French department with the highest murder rate – but also reflects a deeper malaise in the territory which suffers from high unemployment.

The US State Department warned American citizens last Friday to avoid travel to French Guiana due to widespread protests it said had the potential to become violent in the main cities of Kourou and Cayenne and had shut down the international airport.

The State Department advised US visitors to avoid crowds, noting that the protests had shut down roads, schools, businesses and municipal buildings.

Labour protests in the overseas French department bordering Brazil and Suriname have also caused the indefinite postponement of the planned launch of an Ariane 5 rocket carrying communications satellites for Brazil and South Korea.

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