France must maintain peace on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe following violent protests over COVID-19 restrictions, according to the mayor of a city affected by the unrest on Monday.
At least 38 people have been arrested in the area, and dozens of stores have been looted. Rioters reportedly broke into an arms depot in the coastal city of Pointe-a-Pitre on Sunday and stole rifles, according to French media.
“We just don’t know how far this will go,” Mayor Harry Durimel of Pointe-a-Pitre told France Info radio.
Guadeloupe has seen violent protests in the past, but he said there are “big worries” on the island now that rioters have guns.
Durimel, speaking in the early hours of the morning, said he could still hear protests outside.
Last week, violence erupted as a result of walkouts organized by the territory’s labor unions to protest local COVID-19 restrictions such as mandatory vaccination of health workers.
Later on Monday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex will meet with Guadeloupe lawmakers to try to resolve the crisis.
When asked about his expectations for the meeting, Durimel said, “France must reestablish peace.”
He also urged the government in Paris to open up dialogue with the local population suffering from issues such as social distress which were adding to the current health crisis.
Over the weekend, France announced it would send police special forces to restore order in the French overseas territory. The local school authority said on Sunday that all schools in Guadeloupe would be closed on Monday.
In a sign unrest could spread to other overseas territories in the Caribbean, trade unions called for a general strike on the island of Martinique from Monday, French media reported.