Coverage of the chaos in Greece is now everywhere I look. Here is a sampling of stories:
As more than 40 buildings went up in flames, including two historic cinemas and several banks, Athens city centre was left resembling a war zone with cafes and shops smashed and looted as MPs backed the austerity measures by 199 votes to 74 in the single most important ballot in modern Greek history.
The chaos dominated one of the stormiest debates seen in the Greek parliament as MPs argued over a raft of strict measures demanded in return for international aid. Clashes were also reported in Thessaloniki, Patras, Corfu and Crete.
The violence erupted as tens of thousands of demonstrators – many clearly from the austerity-hit middle class in designer spectacles and trendy attire – converged on Syntagma square in front of the parliament to denounce the wage, pension and job cuts envisaged in the €130bn loan agreement. Banners proclaiming “Popular uprising!”, “It’s us or them!” and “Don’t gamble away all we have achieved” were prevalent.
Greece passes crucial bailout vote as country burns
The Greek parliament approved a deeply unpopular austerity bill to secure a second $130bn (£110bn) bailout and avoid a messy default after a day of street battles between police and protesters left Athens in flames.
More than 45,000 protesters, many facing steep cuts in pensions, wages and a bigger fall in living standards besieged the Greek Parliament in two demonstrations. A minority were met with tear gas by the 4,000 policemen after throwing fire bombs.
‘Without a New Beginning, Athens Is Lost’
The European Union is demanding even greater sacrifices from Greece, despite the deal reached by politicians in Athens on Thursday. Facing more painful cuts, Greek citizens are back on the streets as resentment boils over. German commentators say it’s time to finally face the truth.
resentment against the troika and the imposed austerity measures is reaching the breaking point in Greece, with the Germans being a target for particular scorn. On Friday, trade unions began a two-day general strike and demonstrators took to the streets of central Athens. Television footage showed protesters fighting running battles with police and throwing Molotov cocktails.
Many observers are losing faith in the idea that Greece can be saved even if the second bailout goes through. With unemployment at 20.9 percent and the economy in its fifth consecutive year of recession, it is unclear how Greece will ever be able to generate growth or begin to pay down its debt.
On Friday, German commentators argue that it is time for EU politicians to face the truth about the situation — and accept that Greece will either have to default or leave the common currency.
Spiegel Online Photo Gallery
Clashes in Athens
Slide 1 of 11 : Reuters : Greeks are back on the streets as resentment of the troika continues to grow.
Greece’s largest police union has threatened to issue arrest warrants for officials from the country’s European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders for demanding deeply unpopular austerity measures.
In a letter obtained by Reuters on Friday, the Federation of Greek Police accused the officials of “…blackmail, covertly abolishing or eroding democracy and national sovereignty” and said one target of its warrants would be the IMF’s top official for Greece, Poul Thomsen.
The threat is largely symbolic since legal experts say a judge must first authorize such warrants, but it shows the depth of anger against foreign lenders who have demanded drastic wage and pension cuts in exchange for funds to keep Greece afloat.
The New York Times
Greek Parliament Passes Austerity Plan as Riots Rage
After violent protests left dozens of buildings aflame in Athens, the Greek Parliament voted early on Monday to approve a package of harsh austerity measures demanded by the country’s foreign lenders in exchange for new loans to keep Greece from defaulting on its debt.
The new austerity measures include, among others, a 22 percent cut in the benchmark minimum wage and 150,000 government layoffs by 2015 — a bitter prospect in a country ravaged by five years of recession and with unemployment at 21 percent and rising.
But the chaos on the streets of Athens, where more than 80,000 people turned out to protest on Sunday, and in other cities across Greece reflected a growing dread — certainly among Greeks, but also among economists and perhaps even European officials — that the sharp belt-tightening and the bailout money it brings will still not be enough to keep the country from going over a precipice.
Angry protesters in the capital threw rocks at the police, who fired back with tear gas. After nightfall, demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, setting fire to more than 40 buildings, including a historic theater in downtown Athens, the worst damage in the city since May 2010, when three people were killed when protesters firebombed a bank. There were clashes in Salonika in the north, Patra in the west, Volos in central Greece, and on the islands of Crete and Corfu.
Greece and its foreign lenders are locked in a dangerous brinkmanship over the future of the nation and the euro. Until recently, a Greek default and exit from the euro zone was seen as unthinkable. Now, though experts say that the European Union is not prepared for a default and does not want one, the dynamic has shifted from trying to save Greece to trying to contain the damage if it turns out to be unsalvageable.
The leaders of two of the three major political parties in Prime Minister Lucas Papademos’s interim coalition government — the Socialists and the center-right New Democracy party — agreed on the new round of austerity after days of tense debate, maneuvering and threats. The leader of the third, the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally, refused to endorse the measures and later withdrew from the coalition.
In a sign of how the crisis has frayed the political order in Greece, the three leading political parties all moved swiftly to expel lawmakers who had broken ranks with leaders in the voting.
Anti-German sentiment is also on the rise in Greece, where memories of the Nazi occupation during World War II are still vivid. “This is worse than the ’40s,” said Stella Papafagou, 82, who wore a surgical mask at the demonstration to fend off the tear gas. “This time the government is following the Germans’ orders. I would prefer to die with dignity than with my head bent down.”
From The Greek Streets
Athens Burning: Tens of Banks in Flames
Tens of banks and other buildings are burning across Athens after today’s demonstrations. There are huge riots in Thessaloniki and Patra as well.
Irony of the Day
The Irony of the day can be found in The Telegraph headline Merkel has herself to blame if Greece defaults.
Blame? Merkel will be praised in Germany when Greece exits the Eurozone.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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