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  • The protests also led to the indefinite postponement of an Arianespace rocket launch at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou.

    The protests also led to the indefinite postponement of an Arianespace rocket launch at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou. | Photo: AFP

Activists are protesting against what they say are decades of inequalities in the South American French colony.

The movement behind more than three weeks of social unrest in French Guiana said Monday it will press its action until the government signs a draft accord on an emergency financial package and reopens talks on further funds.

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The collective "Pou Lagwyian dekole," or "Collective to Get Guiana Moving," summed up its demands in a seven-page draft "to suspend the movement in its present form," sent to the government Sunday.

"To make a swift pact, we have an obligation to harden the movement," Valerie Vanoukia, representative of small businesses in French Guiana, said on behalf of the collective after a general meeting calling on the population to remobilize.

She said the barricades which had been lifted for Easter would be back in place starting Monday night, and even more will be erected across the territory.

The draft accord calls for an emergency plan of more than US$1.07 billion put forward by the government and proposes reopening the dialogue on more than US$2 billion the protesters have demanded in addition.

Vanoukia stressed that in the original government text, questions on health, education, land and the communes "have not received any real answers," adding that two points were non-negotiable, "The government must act on the fact that the Guianese people want to take charge," and she insisted that no demonstrators taking part in the movement should face punishment.

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"We accept the resumption of the dialogue that the president of the republic has proposed to us," she said, and "to have a quick response, we will continue raising the pressure" just before the first round of the French presidential election this weekend.

Vanoukia said she was "very confident to say that the movement will be suspended in the next two or three days."

A blockade of the port in the capital Cayenne has seen the flow of fresh produce slow to a trickle in the territory bordering Surinam and northern Brazil on the northeast coast of South America, some 4,400 miles from Paris.

The protests also led to the indefinite postponement of an Arianespace rocket launch at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou. The space center has become a symbol of economic disparity in French Guiana and a focus of anger, given many locals have no electricity or running water and about one in four is jobless.

The country has been administered as a French territory since the end of the 18th century and was also used as a place to send convicts for forced labor between 1852 and 1946.

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