Sarkozy vows to crack down on French Guyana mafia after fatal gang shoot-out
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French President Nicolas Sarkozy went on the attack against illegal gold prospectors in the Overseas Territory of French Guyana on Sunday during an official visit to region. “[Guyana] is not the Far West and never will be,” he said vowing to take action against the groups of mainly Brazilian nationals who come to the country to illegally pan for gold.
Ahead of the president’s visit, a turf war between rival gangs overnight Friday killed nine people and wounded two more.
Sarkozy also used the visit to take aim at his main rival for the upcoming presidential election, Francçois Hollande, by describing the Socialist candidate’s short visit to the territory days earlier as “a bit folksy”.
He sharply criticized Hollande’s proposal to give non-EU members the right to vote in local elections.
“Has he really thought about the consequences for Guyana where 37 per cent of the population do not have French nationality?” he asked. “I would like to remind all politicians that the French Republic is mainland France, its departments and overseas territories and not just mainland France.”
Sarkozy’s barbs came as the 57-year-old Hollande made his first campaign speech to around 25,000 of the party faithful at Le Bourget near Paris.
The Socialists have lashed out at Sarkozy for not yet having declared his candidacy for the election while allowing officials from his ruling UMP to snipe at his opponents' campaign promises.
Hollande has consistently led the opinion polls with 28-30 per cent of votes predicted in the first round on 22 April, ahead of Sarkozy’s expected 23-24 per cent. But both far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centraist candidate François Bayrou are on the rise in the polls.
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