1 dead in Greek riots, government faces dissent

The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece— Clouds of tear gas choked central Athens as rival demonstrators fought with stones and firebombs outside parliament Thursday, leaving one man dead and dozens injured. Inside, the Socialist government grappled with dissent over the deeply unpopular new cutbacks demanded by creditors to keep the country afloat.

Greece has been kept solvent only by international bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund and other eurozone nations since May of last year. Creditors have demanded that Greece pass the extra austerity measures before they give the country more funds from that $152 billion bailout loan. Greece says it will run out of money in mid-November without the next $11 billion installment.

On the second day of a general strike that has paralyzed the country, demonstrators marched to Syntagma Square before parliament to protest the new measures that include pay and staff cuts in the civil service as well as pension cuts and tax hikes for all Greeks. The draft law calls for 30,000 public servants to be put on reduced pay and for collective bargaining rights to be suspended.

State hospital officials said a 53-year-old man died of heart failure and at least 74 people were injured after hundreds of rioting youths attacked some of the 50,000 peaceful demonstrators with firebombs and stones. Some of the injured were covered in blood from head wounds.

Police said at least six people were arrested and another 24 detained. Six officers were injured.

Youths set mounds of trash on fire in Syntagma Square and across the city. Young men in crash helmets and gas masks used crowbars and clubs to smash marble from building facades and rip up paving stones to throw at riot police.

Parliament approved the new round of austerity cuts in principle late Wednesday and was to vote on individual articles late Thursday. The Socialists have a four-seat majority in parliament.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos issued an impassioned appeal to Socialist and opposition lawmakers alike, warning that not approving the measures would be disastrous.

“The country will be exposed to the danger of a non-rational development, and will once again serve as the scapegoat on which Europe’s historic, political and institutional shortcomings will be dumped,” he said Thursday.

But Greece’s international creditors, meanwhile, warned that the second rescue package may not be enough to save the country from bankruptcy, according to a draft of a debt inspectors’ report obtained by The Associated Press.

Printed on Friday 21, 2011 as: Riots erupt after Greek austerity law