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Greek protestors greet German Chancellor Angela Merkel

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 9th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was given the red-carpet treatment when she arrived in Greece this week to discuss new economic strategies for the ailing European nation. However, voices of dissent were also heard, as Greek protestors marched through central Athens. Demonstrators were met with teargas and stun grenades. Many blame Merkel for the round of stringent austerity measures Greece has had to endure during the ongoing European economic crisis.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Thousands of demonstrators disregarded a ban on protests. Many  gathered in Syntagma square to voice their displeasure.

Some pelted police with rocks, bottles and sticks. Other tired to bust through a barricade set up to protect Merkel and her delegation, who met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at his nearby office. Police say that it was one of the biggest demonstrations in months.

Merkel is visiting Greece for the first time since Europe's debt crisis erupted here three years ago. She's expected to deliver a message of support -- but no new funds to a nation hammered by recession and fighting to stay in the euro.

Merkel was met with full military honors when she arrived at the Athens airport. Samaras greeted her with a handshake as she exited the German air force jet while a band played the German and Greek national anthems.

The tone was markedly different in central Athens. On the central square next to parliament, four people dressed in German military uniforms and rode on a small jeep, waved black-white-and-red swastika flags and stuck their hands out in the Nazi salute.

"Merkel out, Greece is not your colony" and "This is not a European Union, it's slavery" several banners declared.

Police have deployed 6,000 officers, including anti-terrorist units and rooftop snipers, to provide security during the six-hour visit. German sites in the Greek capital, including the embassy and Goethe Institute, are under special protection.

Merkel has decided to visit Greece after a space of several years for several reasons.

She wants to show support for Samaras, a fellow conservative, as he struggles to impose more cuts on a society fraying at the edges after five years of recession.

Merkel is also expected to confirm her desire to keep Greece in the euro zone, after members of her government flirted with the idea of an exit earlier this year.

With a year to go until Germany holds an election, Merkel also hopes to neutralize opposition criticism that she has neglected Greece and contributed to its woes by insisting on crushing budget cuts.

"Her visit to Athens is primarily about political positioning, and the opportunity to clarify her position on Greece," Alex White, an analyst at J.P. Morgan says.

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