French Guiana Protests Play an Unexpected Role in France’s Presidential Race

French Guiana Protests Play an Unexpected Role in France’s Presidential Race
Masked members of the collective "500 Brothers" take part in a march supporting a general strike, Cayenne, French Guiana, March 28, 2017 (AP photo by Pierre-Olivier Jay).

Strikes and protests have paralyzed French Guiana since last Sunday, as residents of the French overseas department in South America demand an end to rising crime and insecurity and rampant unemployment.

French Guiana, France’s biggest overseas department, has the highest murder rate in any French department, with one murder each week for a population of just 250,000. But residents are also fed up with poor economic and development indicators, including a youth unemployment rate of 40 percent and high infant mortality.

The unrest, which according to some estimates has drawn 20,000 people to the streets, led to the closure of schools and blocked access to the main airport. Many of the demonstrations have been led by a group called the 500 Brothers, which, along with others rallying earlier this week, demanded to meet with a delegation from Paris, saying lower-level officials would not suffice.

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