It was tough getting around Athens on Tuesday, thanks to a general strike of Greece’s two major trade unions. The Athens metro opened long enough for demonstrators to reach Parliament and then suffered severe delays. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Greeks clogged the streets. Police said officers were forced to use tear-gas to keep the unruly crowd under control.
The protestors are angry at the “troika,” their name for the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Money Fund. The troika have called for Greece to adopt new austerity measures in exchange for a $172 billion rescue package. Those measures include reducing the minimum wage by 22%, pension cuts, and slashing 15,000 public-sector jobs.
Greeks broadly accept that their economy is not competitive enough, and the government too big. But many Greeks feel the troika is attempting to reduce the national deficit without producing any growth. Greece is in year five of a brutal recession, half as long as it took Odysseus to make it back to Ithaka from Troy. Last year, Greece’s economy shrank six percent, and unemployment hit 19 percent.
The leader of Greece’s fractious unity government and the heads of the three major political parties are meeting today to discuss whether they can agree to the troika’s proposals. The politicians are caught between the Scylla of default (if they reject austerity measures) and the Charybdis of a still-worsening economy, which could hurt their chances in the next elections. Those may take place as soon as April.
Check out the photos to see more of what’s going on in Greece:
And finally, from this gallery on EgoTV, Sausage the Riot dog: