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LA RÉUNION IS PARALYZED from November 17 by the “yellow vests”. They protest against the increase in the price of fuel and the cost of living in general. The underlying malaise has older arguments: unemployment of 22.8% and, among young people, 47.5%, a dropout rate of 20.7 and a youth population of 25.4% without employment or training (Eurostat, for all these data). The protests have discovered other deep cracks: racial insinuations, quarrels between criollos and the so-called “zoreilles”, the whites who arrived from metropolitan France.
Barricades mounted during the night, with old furniture and wheels, block roads. Pickets prevent the stowage in the port of Saint Denis. At the airport, protesters force to divert flights to the nearby island of Mauritius. There are 154 detainees, according to an AFP count. The Prefecture decreed the curfew on November 20, an unprecedented event on the island. Not even in 1991, during a disturbance in the neighborhood of Caldero, the French Administration imposed such a drastic measure.
The Minister of Public Services, Anne Girardin, visits the island this November 28. He has said that he will meet with the “yellow vests”, a movement without visible leaders, apparently spontaneous, organized from social networks. The crisis forced the president of the Regional Council, Didier Robert, to cancel his participation in the Conference of leaders of the Ultraperipheral Regions of the European Union held in the Canary Islands a few days ago.
The Réunion is a case of relative success among the outermost regions of the European Union. It is the second economy of the Rup area, after the Canary Islands. Unlike this, its income is converging with the European average, its unemployment is shrinking and its innovation -especially in fields such as the energy transition- is a focus of good practices that Brussels recognized in the last European Week of Regions and Cities.
Seen from afar, it is not the kind of tendency that one would say leads to a climate of revolt. Why does protest erupt here and now?
Perhaps the emulation of the standard of life of continental Europe produces a simultaneous emulation of social conflicts. As a region approaches the prosperity of its model, it may also adopt its lines of cultural and social fracture. It happened in Spain with the protests of May 2011. The Canary Islands, one of the regions that has made the greatest relative jump in terms of education and income from the starting point at the time of the democratic transition, was also one of the most active expressing the discomfort.
Importing from Paris the protest of the “yellow vests”, giving it a local accent, can be, paradoxically, a sign that the meetings are getting closer and closer to the way of life of the Metropolis. Maybe it’s just another form of dependency.