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Passage of austerity measures in Greece spur on violent demonstrations

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 8th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The passage of a series of severe austerity measures in Greece - intended to bring the nation back from the brink of financial ruin, has spurred on massive, violent demonstrations. At least 80,000 people massed in Athens, where police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon to push back rioters. Dozens of people have been detained.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The austerity measures, which will further slash pensions and salaries, passed 153-128 in the 300-member parliament.

Approval of the cuts and tax rises worth $17 billion over two years was a big step for Greek efforts to secure the next installment of its international rescue funds. Greece has long teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, which will irreparably damage the European Union and the euro.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said the country would have run out of Euros on November 16 without the funds.

"Today we took a big and decisive step towards growth," he said after the crucial vote.

The tough measures are due to be implemented by the year 2016. The measures include resetting the retirement age to 67, slashing benefits and cutting the minimum wage.

Analysts say the result is that support for continued austerity three years into Greece's financial crisis is dwindling fast. The close vote was a major political blow to the three-party coalition government, which holds a total of 176 seats in parliament.

Two of the three coalition parties expelled a total of seven dissenting deputies from their ranks following the vote.

Deputies from the third, the small Democratic Left, mostly abstained, in accordance with their party's line. Leader Fotis Kouvelis had said in the days leading up to the vote that he could not back labor reforms included in the bill.

Samaras acknowledged that some of the measures in the bill were unfair, during hours of acrimonious debate in parliament. He says that the cuts were vital to avoid bankruptcy and Greece being forced out of the euro and back to its old currency, the drachma.

"This [bill] will finally rid the country of drachmophobia," Samaras said.

"Many of these measures are fair and should have been taken years ago, without anyone asking us to," Samaras said. "Others are unfair . cutting wages and salaries . and there is no point in dressing this up as something else," he said.

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