Demonstrators hold hands during a meeting organized by education unions in front of the local education authority offices on March 27, 2017 in Cayenne, as part of general strikes on the French overseas territory of French Guiana. French Guiana was paralysed by a general strike on March 27, closing schools, disrupting airline traffic and further stoking fears of instability in the French overseas territory which has been gripped by protests since last week. (Photo credit: JODY AMIET/AFP/Getty Images)
By NAN Contributor
News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Tues. Mar. 28, 2017: The U.S. is warning its citizens against travel to a Caribbean nation that rarely ever makes it on to the State Department’s travel alert list.
The Department of State is warning U.S. citizens to avoid travel to the French territory of French Guiana due to widespread protests throughout the country and along the roads leading to the neighboring countries of Suriname and Brazil.
Strikes and protests in the cities of Kourou and Cayenne Monday have the potential to become violent, the US government says, citing the fact that the protests have shut down roads, schools, businesses, and municipal buildings.
The protests on Monday also halted flights and a rocket launch. The French government has sent an emergency mission to try to quell tensions in the territory of a quarter-million people.
The Collective of 500 Brothers, the group largely behind the protests along with 29 other unions, is demanding that the French government send a minister to negotiate with them. The group, initially created to focus on fighting crime, includes dozens of men wearing black clothes and black hoods to hide their faces.
U.S. citizens are being warned to monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.
For US citizens already in French Guiana, the US is urging them to exercise vigilance when in public places, using transportation, or driving on the roads; avoid large crowds or crowded places; be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions and to stay in touch with your family members and ensure they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency.
The travel alert on French Guiana is in place until April 30, 2017.
French Guiana is a territory of France where 50 percent unemployment exists among young people and 30 percent of the population lack drinking water or electricity in their homes. The protests over crime rates and cost of living have propelled the French overseas territory into spotlight of the French elections and into the media spotlight.
French President Francois Hollande has responded by saying: “The first priority is the fight against insecurity.”
Independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, who just completed a tour of France’s overseas territories, called for calm, saying the situation was “serious.” He was later mocked for calling the overseas territory an island, which it is not.