'I'm not Father Christmas' says President Macron in visit to French Guiana

Published 29.10.2017 20:16
Updated 29.10.2017 20:18
French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with a woman during a visit to Maripasoula, in French Guiana, Oct. 26.
French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with a woman during a visit to Maripasoula, in French Guiana, Oct. 26.

French President Emmanuel Macron's visit to French Guiana was impaired with some controversy when he said that while he would not "make grand promises that are hot air" he also said that he is not "Father Christmas [Santa Clause]."

President Macron also faced demonstrations by separatists who argue that French Guiana is overlooked by the government in Paris.

With an unemployment rate of 23%, unchecked mass immigration and a waning infrastructure have left some in the ex-colony to feel abandoned.

Some six months ago, a general strike over high unemployment had severely affected the territory, and tensions continue to run high. The violent protests lasted for over two weeks.

They had briefly even occupied a European Space Agency launch pad, jointly used by the French space agency CNES, the National Center for Space Studies.

At the time, the Socialist government attempted to appease the protesters by offering 1 billion Euros to stimulate the Guianese economy.

"The state has made too many promises that have not been kept," said the President. "I am not Father Christmas because the Guianese are not children."

He pledged to increase the number of police officers to tackle the high crime rates as well as illegal immigration, and regarding the violent protesters, he said that the French Republic "does not yield to people in masks."

"So I'm here to tell things as I see them, make commitments that I can keep during my term in office and help provide the authority which is essential on this territory."

However there were some more light moments in his statements as well.

Just because he is head of the French government doesn't mean Macron is completely out of the loop.

"A few of you aren't just smoking cigarettes," he said while meeting with young people. "I still have a nose for it."

The comment by the 39-year-old leader, implying that some in the crowd were smoking marijuana, helped him warm up the room.

"That certainly won't help you do well in school," he added.

Macron made his surprise visit to an underprivileged district in the capital, Cayenne, on Friday night, where he spoke with residents.

His visit to the French territory plagued by economic problems has been overshadowed by clashes between demonstrators and police.

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