France fears its Caribbean islands are tilting leftward toward Cuba

Cuba's spreading influence in the Caribbean is seriously worrying the French government. Paris is particularly concerned about Martinique and Guadeloupe, France's only outposts in the area.

The two islands are considered an integral part of French soil, and a Cuban-inspired swing to the left could have serious repercussions at home.

In recent months, the revolutionary spirit in the area has spread to the French isles, increasing French concern.

In the past 17 years, 16 islands in the Lesser Antilles have become independent states. Three of these -- Grenada, St. Lucia, and Dominica -- have swung significantly leftward.

Recent strikes, racial incidents, and natural disasters cause French politicians to fear the situation is worsening.

Any leftward shift poses a potential threat to Western security. The islands of the Lesser Antilles form a chain along the maritime routes to the Panama Canal. They enclose the strategically important Caribbean Sea, the route for one-fourth the oil shipped to the United States and the site of major oil refineries in Aruba, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

French leftists naturally are doing their best to cash in on the government's difficulties with the Caribbean area.

As could be expected, the French Communist Party is happy about the spread of Cuban influence, which they hope will counter what communists consider France's colonialist approach in the area.

The Socialist Party warns that racial tension in the islands could provide the spark for direct confrontation between native islanders and Europeans. Socialists describe Europeans living and working in Martinique and Guadeloupe as , symbolically, part of a colonialist iceberg that Caribbean nations are increasingly rejecting.

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