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POINTE-A-PITRE, GUADELOUPE, August 4 — Five months after the 44-day general strike against capitalist profiteering, the situation remains tense on this Caribbean island, a French overseas territory.
One of the islanders’ main grievances has been the profiteering by SARA, the oil company owned by Total, Esso and Chevron-Texaco. But on July 22, barely one month after taking office, Marie-Luce Penchard, the new Secretary of State for Overseas Territories, announced the government will allow a hike in gas prices later this month.
This came although the Ollier/Taubira commission — set up under the March 4 protocol that ended the general strike — has not reported yet. Since the announcement, repeated rumors of impending gas-price increases have caused runs on gas stations, jangling people’s nerves and filling the station owners’ cash registers.
Both the LKP collective (an umbrella organization of unions, political parties and cultural associations which led the general strike) and the UGTG trade union are calling on the government — in accordance with the March 4 protocol — to force SARA to reimburse over three million euros that it wrongly received from local government, instead of allowing the company to grab even more.
A measure of the tension here was the cops’ violent reaction when the slam poet Vasko shouted an insult at French president Sarkozy during his June 26 visit to nearby Martinique, which had also been shut by the general strike. Vasko was immediately slapped twice on the face, thrown to the ground, handcuffed and charged with insulting a public official.
There also may be a teachers’ strike when school begins on September 2, demanding more teacher positions as promised in the March 4 protocol.
But now the bosses’ government is going back on its promises that ended the strike — and end to SARA profiteering and more teacher jobs. This bears out what CHALLENGE reported during the general strike: the bosses try to take away benefits that workers win during their struggles, which is why communist revolution is the only way to obtain real, permanent change.