By Gilles Gressier, France Caraibe
News Americas, CAYENNE, French Guiana, Mon. Oct, 30, 2017: “I am not Father Christmas.”
That’s the word from French President Emmanuel Macron to nationals of French Guiana on his arrival there on October 26, 2017 for the occasion of the 22nd Conference of the European Ultra Peripheral Regions.
Accompanied by the President of the European Commission Jean Claude Junker, Macron wanted to set the record straight, declaring: “I am not Father Christmas because the people of Guiana are not children. I am here with ambition for French Guyana but I did not come to make promises; that time is over.”
Macron’s visit to French Guiana was marred by clashes between protesters and police, partly sparked by the president’s ‘I am not Father Christmas’ remarks to the impoverished nation.
Angry protesters hurled petrol bombs at police officers who responded with tear gas. The clashes continued for several hours Friday night and ended with five rioters being arrested and two police officers injured.
Local politicians also were outraged by Macron’s remarks. “We don’t need Father Christmas, we need a government that realizes that in Guiana nothing works,” David Riche, the head of the association of the local mayors told Franceinfo.
Opposition figures back in France also did not pass up the chance to criticize the president for his remarks. French MP, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, called Macron “Father Christmas for the rich” in his Twitter post.
His comments came months after the former French government signed an agreement with protesters and local MPs in Guiana, ending a vast protest movement that had paralyzed the country for over a month.
But Marcon told Guianese during his visit: “The philosophy that is mine is not to arrive with billions.”
“There is a commitment of 1.1 billion Euros that has been taken, it will be held over the coming years, but behind these are projects that we must develop,” he said. “The approach that I want with the President of the Territorial Collective of Guiana, with all the elected officials, the civil society, is to build the project that will be yours, the project of Guiana; it is the very heart of the Overseas Foundations”
Macron also emphasized the importance of regional integration of French overseas territories in the Caribbean.
Regional integration will be discussed shortly at the 13th Regional Conference on Caribbean which will take place this year in Guadeloupe from November 15-17, 2017.