Guadeloupe, Central America

By | January 13, 2023

As a country located in Caribbean Sea of Central America defined by, the Guadeloupe archipelago was originally inhabited by carriers – Native American fighters – who organized themselves into groups of 15-20 families and lived off hunting and fishing. In addition, the Arawak people, who originally lived in the northernmost part of South America and later spread across the Caribbean. The two indigenous peoples withstood the Spanish invasion in 1493 and resisted the French, who first defeated them 200 years later.

French settlers built the first sugar mill in 1633 and began the purchase of African slaves. As early as the late 17th century, the archipelago of Guadeloupe was one of the most important sugar producers. By the 18th century, the settlers had exterminated the last indigenous peoples of the islands.

When slavery was abolished in 1815, France changed the status of the islands to become French colonies. In 1946, the new French constitution gave the archipelago greater autonomy as an overseas department.

The subsidies from the French state increased the income per population and consumption of imported products when the tariff barriers were removed, but at the same time the local economy was ruined. According to AbbreviationFinder, the largest countries in Central America are Cuba and Haiti.

Racism frequently creates tensions in a country where 90% of the population is of African origin or a mixture. In 1985, there was a violent clash between supporters of independence and the police. A number of assaults sent several members of the Caribbean Revolutionary Alliance (ARC) to jail.

In the 1988 election, François Mitterrand got 70% of the vote in Guadeloupe, but 2/3 of the people chose to stay home. At the local elections in October of that year, the Left strengthened its majority in the General Council by another seat.

In 1989, those convicted from 1985 were granted amnesty. That same year, the ARC participated in elections as a legal political party for the first time, but suffered a staggering defeat.

The same year, Hurricane Hugo ravaged the entire Caribbean, leaving 12,000 people in Guadeloupe homeless. Paris declared that it froze interest on the country’s foreign debt and transferred $ 5.4 million in relief.

When the EU decided in 1992 to reduce quotas for imports of bananas from the French Antilles in favor of imports from Africa and Latin America, this triggered strong protests on Guedeloupe. The election to the Regional Council – one of Parliament’s two chambers – was won by the Conservative RPR, the party of President Jacques Chirac. The RPR got 15 out of the council’s 41 seats followed by the Socialist Party with 9.

Decline in tourism in 1993 led to a significant decline in economic activity. Unemployment reached 24% and the informal sector of the economy increased significantly.

The decline in production helped to further deteriorate the trade balance. In 1995, export revenue covered only 9.9% of import costs, and this share fell to 5.2% in 1996. The trend was particularly strong in banana exports. This sector was hit by the decline in international demand, EU decisions and intensified competition from North American multinational companies that owned plantations in Central America. Exports in 1996 were below half of 1993 exports.

At the end of the year, the banana workers went on a massive strike. Representatives from the trade union movement accused the plantation owners of setting up private militias and directing death threats against the banana workers to make them abandon the strike. By February 1998, the strike had spread to other sectors, in a country where 40% of the economically active population was now unemployed and where social inequalities were growing.

In September 1999, there was a violent clash between police and protesters protesting the arrest of a union man accused of injuring 2 policemen. As a result of the riots, another 6 police officers were wounded and 70 arrested.

In March 2000, French President Jacques Chirac visited the island to negotiate a trade agreement in place between the EU and France’s colonies in the Caribbean. The president’s visit coincided with a highlight of the local demands for independence.

In August 2001, Haitian immigrants filed a complaint against the State Attorney against a speech on the TV station for inciting hatred and xenophobia against local Haitians, Dominicans and others. The accused journalist, Ibo Simon, was also employed as an adviser to the Guadeloupe government.

In 2002, traders refused to stay closed on May 27, the anniversary of the abolition of slavery. The island’s unions had asked that they stay closed that day, and forcibly approached the merchant who was still open. Authorities responded again by arresting two union leaders in June. It triggered violent riots in Pointe-a-Pitre and 7 police officers were injured.

In August 2003, several were injured during an assault at a fast-food restaurant in Abymes. Photographer Sylvère Selbonne of France-Antilles Guadeloupe was subsequently arrested while taking pictures in the restaurant. During the arrest, he was overpowered and kicked by police officers at the scene.

Lack of economic growth and chronic unemployment – especially among young people – continues to give considerable support to supporters of independence.

In February 2007, the islands became Barthelemy and Saint-Martin became an independent territory under France when, in accordance with a 2003 reform, they detached from Guadeloupe.

In January 2009, the umbrella organization Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon (LKP), led by Élie Domota, initiated a strike for a 200 Euro monthly salary increase for the island’s low-wage earners. The umbrella organization consisted of 50 unions and other popular organizations. The strikers recommended that the government reduce the corporate tax so that companies could pay the salary increase. The strike lasted 44 days until on March 5 an agreement could be reached that gave the lowest paid a salary increase of the required 200 Euro. The strike revealed the deep ethnic and racial divisions that characterize Guadeloupe and Martinique. In June, French President Sarkozy visited the islands in an attempt to heal, but at the same time rejected both autonomy and more extensive self-government in the islands. The LKP declined to meet with the president.

In May 2012, Victorin Lurel was appointed Minister of «Overseas French Affairs» by the French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. In March 2014, he lost his mandate at the municipal election in Vieux-Habitants and the month after being removed from the French government.

Category 4/5 Hurricane Maria passed in September 2017 directly over Guadeloupe. The hurricane caused significant damage and cut off electricity supply to 40,000 homes, but it cost few lives compared to the consequences on other islands.