May 02, 2010

Greek tragedy as government bows to financiers' cuts, Morning Star, Sunday 02 May 2010. by Richard Bagley

Greeks rose up in anger at the weekend as their political leaders signed away control of their country's finances in return for a handout from global financiers.

Millions across the world marked International Workers Day on May 1 with rallies and marches, but the unfolding rebellion against vicious cuts in Greece dominated the day.

On Sunday Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou signed up to an assault on ordinary Greeks dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Union.

They agreed to loan the country around 120 billion euros (£103bn) but only in return for the assault on the public sector.

In a statement unelected EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said: "The commission considers that the conditions for responding positively to the request by the Greek government are met and recommends that the co-ordinated European mechanism for assistance to Greece be activated."

The nominally "Socialist" administration signed up to the deal after global bond firms, which alongside the IMF and EU are heavily influenced or run by Western bankers, pulled the plug by downgrading Greek government bonds to "junk" status.

This stopped it from borrowing against its future income, a traditional route governments have taken out of budgetary crisis.

"We are confronted with international markets that do not give us the time to make the necessary adjustments," complained Mr Papaconstantinou.

Fifty per cent of Greeks said they would actively resist the cuts package, according to a poll before yesterday's announcement.

And around 100,000 people turned out in Athens on Saturday to protest against public-sector cuts to wages, services, jobs and pensions, as well as tax rises, enshrined in the deal.

Marchers chanted "Hands off our rights! IMF and EU Commission out!" and "No to the IMF's junta!" recalling the military dictatorship which ruled Greece between 1967-74.

Later police confronted small groups of anarchists and youths throwing Molotov cocktails whose actions dominated global TV footage.

But the over-riding tone of the demonstration called by private-sector union GSEE and public-sector union ADEDY was peaceful yet defiant.

"We will be pursuing an organised, massive and long-term struggle against austerity measures because they can only lead to a very severe depression and skyrocketing unemployment," declared GSEE president Ioannis Panagopoulos.

ADEDY spokesman Andreas Petropoulos pledged: "The protests are clearly aimed against the coming government measures and the 'junta of the IMF' and it won't stop here."

Greek unions plan to hold a general strike on Wednesday.

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