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Austerity Riots in Athens: Greece’s Tragic Cycle

Greeks took to the streets again today to protest austerity measures. While there’s nothing new in this by itself, it does represent the first austerity protests to occur under the new administration. Prime Minister Samaras, who was elected in June promising to postpone austerity measures, is slowly being forced to face up to reality and is thrashing out a plan for about $15 billion in budget cuts. These cuts are necessary to convince investors (the IMF, ECB, and Euro Commission) to hand over the more than $40 billion Athens needs to stay afloat for at least another year.

As the New York Times explains, Greek citizens won’t give in to austerity without a fight:

Demonstrations had been peaceful throughout the morning, as civil servants, teachers, professors, doctors, pharmacists, tax officers, bank employees and lawyers made their way to the center of Athens.

But violence broke out shortly after 1 p.m. as a group of people wearing black face masks hurled Molotov cocktails at police officers on Vassilis Sofias Street, a wide avenue abutting the Parliament building, sending bursts of flame and black smoke into the air. Crowds scattered inside Syntagma Square when similarly clad youths destroyed a tent and set part of it on fire. Police officers wielding batons responded with brief bursts of tear gas, although they had been ordered not to use it broadly as they have in previous demonstrations.

Greece is settling into a bitter cycle, in which Europe imposes harsh measures and the Greeks resist, thereby convincing Europe of the need for even harsher measures. The  government desperately needs these funds to stay afloat, but ordinary Greeks aren’t making it easy for their political leaders to get them.

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