Strikes in Greece organized by the nation’s two largest unions evolved into violent protests Wednesday as protesters hurled firebombs at police in Athens where about 50,000 gathered to condemn new austerity measures.
Throngs of protesters near the country’s parliament joined a union-organized march protesting austerity, setting fire to trees in the National Gardens and smashing paving stones with hammers to use as rocks to throw at riot police, according to The Telegraph.
“People, fight, they’re drinking your blood,” protesters chanted as they banged drums.
Despite Wednesday’s protests, Greece’s prime minister and finance minister were busy shaping a (euro) 11.5 billion ($14.87 billion) package of spending cuts demanded by the country’s international lenders.
Greece is laden with unsustainable debt and seeking additional bailouts from eurozone members, however euro-lenders are facing multiple economic crises, including possibly having to bail out Spain, which is now in a ‘deep depression.’ Spain is a relatively large eurozone economy compared to Greece.
Wednesday’s supposed 24-hour strike closed the famous Acropolis; airline flights were delayed for hours; ferry services suspended; schools, shops and gas stations shuddered, and hospitals made do with emergency staff.
Athens hospital worker Alkis Betses, a striker whose monthly salary recently dropped from (euro) 1,300 to (euro) 800 (($1,680 to $1,035), claimed new austerity cuts will further reduce his income to (euro) 600 ($775).
However, as strikes paralyze Greece’s already struggling economy, international Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras struck a deal on a new (euro) 11.5 billion austerity package for 2013-14, along with another (euro) 2 billion in improved tax collection, according to a finance ministry spokesman quoted Wednesday.
With more eurozone nations like Italy and Spain teetering on insolvency, analysts say there are no quick fixes and more cuts in government jobs, pay and services are coming.
Greece’s financial woes are deep and the country has limped by on international loans from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund since mid-2010.
Without the huge cash infusions from Germany and other foreign sources, Greece would default on its debts and its economy would degrade into deeper chaos. Most analysts suggest that without bailout loans, Greece would be forced out of the 17-country bloc that uses the euro.