the decades of nuclear tests in French Polynesia affect the president Emmanuel Macron, under pressure to apologize for radiation damage.
During his four-day visit, Macron plans to address the legacy of the nuclear tests carried out between 1966 and 1996 as France developed its atomic weapons, as well as to discuss the strategic role of the South Pacific territory and the existential risk of rising seas it poses. the global warming.
Residents of the sprawling archipelago of more than 100 islands, located midway between Mexico and Australia, expect Macron to apologize and confirm compensation for radiation victims.
The tests remain a source of deep resentment, seen as a sign of a racist colonialist attitude in contempt for islanders.
After landing on Saturday, Macron, whose trip in 2020 was delayed due to the pandemic, met with health professionals fighting covid-19 in semi-autonomous territory, where many are wary of vaccines.
“I want to send a very strong message to ask everyone to get vaccinated,” he said, adding “when you are vaccinated, you are protected and spread the virus little, or at least much less.”
High rates of thyroid cancer
Macron will “push forward several concrete steps” regarding the legacy of nuclear testing, with the opening of state archives and individual damages, said a source in the French presidency, who asked not to be named.
French officials denied any concealment of radiation exposure at a meeting earlier this month with delegates from the semi-autonomous territory led by President Edouard Fritch.
The meeting came after French investigative website Disclose reported in March that the impact of the fallout was far greater than recognized by authorities, citing French military documents on the 193 tests.
Only 63 Polynesian civilians have been compensated for radiation exposure since the tests ended in 1996, Disclose said, estimating that more than 100,000 people may have been infected in total, with consequences such as leukemia, lymphomas or other cancers.
“We expect an apology from the president,” said Auguste Uebe Carlson, director of the 193 Nuclear Test Victims Association. “Just as they recognized the colonization that took place in Algeria as a crime, we also expect them to declare that what happened here in the Pacific was criminal and that it is a form of colonization linked to nuclear energy,” he said.
Patrick Galenon, former president of the Territory’s Social Security System (CPS), said Polynesian women between 40 and 50 “have the highest rates of thyroid cancer in the world.”
He estimates that CPS has spent $790 million to treat illnesses caused by radiation since 1985.
Macron, who arrived in French Polynesia after a visit to the Tokyo Olympics, will also present his strategic vision for the South Pacific, where China does not hide its pressure for military and commercial dominance.