Sunday, February 12, 2012

Greek Parliament Passes New Austerity Program | 'Explosion of Rage' as Rioters Torch Buildings, Police

February 13, 2012:  GREECE'S PARLIAMENT HAS PASSED A NEW AUSTERITY PROGRAM in the very early morning hours of Monday, February 13 (local date). The MPs voted even as the streets outside were in violent turmoil, the result of riots that started several days ago.

"The historic vote paves the way for Greece's European partners and the International Monetary Fund to release euro130 billion ($171 billion)," the Associated Press reports, "in new rescue loans without which Greece would default on its debt mountain next month and likely leave the eurozone — a scenario that would further roil global markets.

"After three days of rioting, the Greek parliament Sunday approved a new set of austerity measures that are likely to cause much pain for its already-struggling citizens," says an Associated Press report. "The measures clear the way for the nation to reduce its debt and gain another bailout from the other European nations and the International Monetary Fund. Greeks took to the streets Friday in protest of cuts including a 22-percent drop in the minimum wage. This comes with the unemployment rate over 20 percent and the economy in the fifth year of a recession. Riots and fires continued all throughout the weekend."

Greece fire ~ The Telegraph
"The 200-74 vote was passed against a backdrop of serious violence on the streets Athens," says The Telegraph (UK), "and in other Greek towns and cities, including the holiday islands of Corfu and Crete."

Rioting has been destructive in Athens. This has the potential of increasing the intensity of the violent protests. Greek leftists have been using destruction and violence to protest the of deep cuts in government programs and employment if Greece adopts yet another austerity program. Rioters have thrown petrol bombs  and Molotov cocktails at police and torched more than 10 buildings, some historic. The government is faced with complete insolvency if it does not take more, very deep austerity measures.

Violence erupted on Sunday as over 100,000 protesters marched to parliament to rally against drastic austerity cuts that will axe one in five public service jobs and slash the minimum wage by more than a fifth. In October, 2011 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European nations gave Greece a new aid package. That was in addition to the May, 2010 bailout of 110 billion euros. It was hoped that those funds would help Greece to survive until 2016. It was not enough, however.

Athens police attacked with petrol bomb ~ Daily Mail
"On March 20, Greece faces a EUR14.4 billion bond redemption that it cannot pay unless it secures that aid," reported the Wall Street Journal today. "That has raised the specter of a disorderly default by the country, which would make it the first country in the history of the euro to do so."

Leftist protesters are using the wanton destruction of public and private property to protest the bitter medicine that's needed to cure Greece's catastrophic economic ills.

The rioters and their sympathizers have caused and cultivated those ills by demanding more and more socialism over the decades. Like a junkie who just realized he's run out of drugs, the rioters are reacting violently in an infantile attempt to get more.

"Police have fought running battles in central Athens," reports The Australian, "as Greek MPs debated legislation that would introduce severe austerity measures to stave off bankruptcy. The riots engulfed central Athens with at least 10 buildings in flames in mass protests as MPs prepared for the historic parliamentary vote on tough austerity measures. TV footage showed a three-storey corner building completely consumed by flames with riot officers looking on from the street, and firefighters trying to douse the blaze. A closed cinema, a bank, a mobile phone dealership, a glassware store and a cafeteria were among the burning buildings, the fire department said."

"Historic cinemas, cafes and shops went up in flames," says The Daily Mail, "as Greek riot police struggled to pin down black-masked anti-austerity protesters roaming around central Athens ... Youths fought with police outside parliament for hours."

Earlier, the Mail reported that "Legislators are hoping to secure the deeply unpopular multi-billion-euro bailout and avert what Prime Minister Lucas Papademos warned would be 'economic chaos'. But as parliament began debating the bill anger over the new round of cuts spread and riots broke out again outside the building."

Not content with destroying property, some rioters used homemade bombs in an attempt to kill or maim police: "The air over Syntagma Square outside parliament was thick with tear gas," The Mail say, "as riot police fought running battles with youths who smashed marble balustrades and hurled stones and petrol bombs."

To be fair, however, not all leftists in Greece are acting that way. Greece's Socialist party leader George Papandreou, says WSJ, again called on lawmakers on Sunday "to support a tough package of reforms the country must take to secure a new 130-billion-euro ($178 billion) aid package from its international creditors." Papandreou made his remarks before a parliamentary vote on a loan memorandum "with Greece's European partners and the International Monetary Fund," and he "defended the austerity measures despite widespread belief in his party that the previous loan terms had driven the economy deep into recession."

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos's government, says The Australian, is "an unlikely coalition of the majority Socialists and their main foes, the conservative New Democracy." They speculate that  the austerity measure is expected to "carry the vote, even by a narrow margin."

"There are very few such moments in the history of a nation," Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said. "Our country has an acute issue of survival," and "The question is not whether some salaries and pensions will be curtailed, but whether we will be able to pay even these reduced wages and pensions," he added. "When you have to choose between bad and worse, you will pick what is bad to avoid what is worse."
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