Thursday, October 6, 2011

Greece: Bloodied but defiant: 10,000 Greek strikers and police in running battles

Greek riot police have fired teargas at petrol bomb throwing youths and charged them wielding batons as 10,000 public sector workers marched to protest against budget cuts and high taxes.

The country is today in the grip of a 24-hour national strike which has seen flights grounded, schools shut and people on the streets trying to storm the Athens parliament of its bankrupt government. Violence broke out as anarchists mixed with the marchers and started attacking more than 1,000 police with any weapons they could find.

This has been the first nationwide walkout in months and marked the start of what campaigners say is the culmination of two years of tax hikes and wage cuts. In the chaos hospitals ran on emergency rotas and some state schools closed.

Train services were also halted and more than 400 international and domestic flights were cancelled at Athens airport. The thousands of state workers, pensioners and students gathered in central Athens, beating drums and waving banners reading 'Erase the debt!' and 'The rich must pay!'

Despite the cuts demanded by the EU and the IMF, the government was forced to announce this week it would still miss its 2011 deficit target by nearly 2 billion euros, rattling global markets.
Greeks themselves lack faith in their leaders as polls show nearly four out of five expect the country to default on their massive national debt within months.

'We want this government out. They deceived us. They promised to tax the rich and help the poor, but they didn't,' said Sotiris Pelekanos, 39, an engineer and one of the striking workers gathered in central Athens.

'I don't care if we go bankrupt. We are already bankrupt. It's just a matter of the state realising it. We've lost everything.'

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