Riots raged on the streets of Athens as Greek political leaders passed an austerity package to cut public spending in the hope of saving Greece from default. Around 80,000 protesters massed outside parliament and in Athens’ main square, with shops set on fire and police fighting back with tear gas.
Ian Traynor and Helena Smith painted a vivid picture of the streets of Athens right now for The Guardian:
“Street battles between police firing rounds of tear gas and demonstrators hurling firebombs and marble slabs left Syntagma Square, the plaza in front of the parliament building, resembling a war zone. Rubbish bins burned as plumes of smoke and asphyxiating clouds of toxic chemicals filled the air.
Bangs could be heard inside parliament and the tear gas drifting across square reached the debating chamber. Last night several buildings has been set on fire, including a cinema, bank and a number of shops, and Greek television reported that dozens of citizens and at least 40 police officers had been injured.
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Under a sea of banners denouncing further wage, pension and job cuts, tens of thousands of protesters chanted against “the occupation” of the country by foreign lenders keeping Greece afloat.”
The latest austerity measures involve 3.3 billion euros worth of cuts to public sector wages, pensions and jobs. If Greece doesn’t make the budget cuts, the European Union will not lend it the 130 billion euros it needs to avoid default. Otherwise Greece faces bankruptcy within a month.
If Greek doesn’t meet its payments next month, the consequences are severe, explains Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis: “Let’s just ask ourselves what it would mean for the country to lose its banking system, to be cut off from imports of raw materials, pharmaceuticals, fuel, basic foodstuffs and technology.”
Athens News has the full documents of the latest agreement between Greece and the EU and the International Monetary Fund.
“We are a breath away from ground zero,” Greek president Lucas Papademos announced on television, in a plea for citizens to support the austerity deal.
Athens News is running a live blog of Greek politicians debating the plan before it goes to a vote.
Many Greeks resent what they see as foreign forces controlling their country. Harriet Alexander from The Telegraph visited a village in Greece where anger for Germany is high:
“As a boy he escaped from a Nazi massacre in his village, running for three days barefoot through the Greek countryside to flee the hellish scenes. As a businessman, he bought German-made Mercedes trucks, becoming heavily indebted in the process. And as a pensioner, looking back on 83 years spent in this mountainous pocket of central Greece, he finds himself scarcely able to survive on his meagre pension — with German-led EU politicians demanding yet more austerity.
“‘Once again, Germany is controlling everything for us,’ said Mr Basdekis.”
Now is not the time for partisan games by Greek politicians, says the Greek English newspaper Ekathimerini in its editorial:
“It is unacceptable that our politicians’ populist manner of communication is leading the country to bankruptcy. Neither the rivalries over who saved what during the tough national negotiations with our creditors nor the political games regarding the undertaking of written commitments by the party leaders do the political system any justice. The country is heading toward disaster and a harsh European establishment is disseminating the view that Greece is beyond saving and does not have any trustworthy leaders.”