Riots in Greece
The riots that have ravaged
It is impotent because it is in decay, undermined for a long time by pork, corruption and cronyism. It had already demonstrated its incompetence during the wave of fires that enflamed the Peloponnesus and
It's not a question of political party. The (Socialist) PASOK, which controlled the government from 1980-1990, suffers from the same evils as the right. It was unable - or unwilling - to build a modern state of law. The big families - the Caramanlis, Mitsotakis, Papandreou - that have followed one another in power for decades, have, along with their loyalists, profited from a system of which the scraps and crumbs have nourished a large part of the population.
Also see below:
Strikes Cripple a Riot-Shaken Greece
The social crisis explains, without justifying, the violence of the last few days. Mr. Caramanlis's government may restore peace. It is too weak to attack the roots of the disorder.
Translation: Truthout French language editor Leslie Thatcher.
Strikes Cripple a Riot-Shaken
Wednesday 11 December 2008
by: Rachel Donadio and Anthee Carassava, The New York Times
Clashes broke out in
Airports were severely affected by the strike as air traffic controllers walked out. Scores of international and local flights were grounded, the state news media reported. Railways, metro and bus lines and intercity coach services were virtually halted.
But while labor unions went ahead with the national strike, they called off a planned protest demonstration in an effort to help limit the disorder that has unfurled through the country. Dozens of people have been arrested over the last four days as rioters fought with police and rampaged in
The general strike was originally called to press economic demands for increased pay and to protest belt-tightening measures put forward by the government.
But the anti-government movement acquired new impetus following the fatal shooting by the police on Saturday of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, 15.
While clashes between the police and students have been common in
But it was expressed in violence in the streets by student anarchists, who had been quiet for several years but seemed revived by the crisis. Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, hanging on to power in Parliament by only one vote, seemed frozen, his government, once popular but now scandal-ridden, increasingly under pressure.
"He's seriously troubled" about the riots, said Nicholas Karahalios, a strategy adviser to the prime minister. "Whereas before we were dealing with a political and economic crisis, now there's a third dimension attached to it: a security crisis which exacerbates the situation."
More demonstrations were expected in the national strike Wednesday.
On Tuesday, bands of militant youths threw gasoline bombs and smashed shop windows in downtown
While widespread and violent, the protests on Tuesday were seen as slightly smaller than those the day before, when after dark hundreds of professed anarchists broke the windows of upscale shops, banks and five-star hotels in central
In the shattered city center on Tuesday, street-cleaning trucks tackled the mess. Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis advised Athenians not to drive into the city center and asked them to keep their trash indoors; rioters burned 160 big garbage containers in the streets on Monday night.
On Tuesday, the opposition leader, George A. Papandreou, a Socialist, renewed his call for early elections. Yet it remained unclear whether the riots would cause the government to fall or whether the current stalemate would continue.
"What I foresee is a prolonged political crisis with no immediate results for two or three years," said George Kirtsos, a political commentator and the publisher of City Press, an independent newspaper. "In that time, the country will be going from bad to worse."
On Tuesday, as youths scuffled with the police outside Parliament, Prime Minister Karamanlis met with his cabinet council and opposition leaders in an effort to get their backing for security operations. But he seemed uncertain exactly how to contain the disturbances. The authorities seem to fear that cracking down on the demonstrators may lead to other unintended deaths, provoking more rioting.
Asked why the riots had not been contained, a spokesman for the national police, Panayiotis Stathis, said "violence cannot be fought with violence."
But in a news conference, Mr. Karamanlis issued warnings somewhat stronger than his actions, saying there would be no leniency for rioters.
"No one has the right to use this tragic incident as an alibi for actions of raw violence, for actions against innocent people, their property and society as a whole, and against democracy," Mr. Karamanlis said after an emergency meeting with President Karolos Papoulias.
Mr. Karamanlis faced criticism for not acting with a stronger hand earlier, with some suggesting that this gave credibility to the rioters' anger.
"They chose to show tolerance, which backfired," said Nikos Kostandaras, the editor of Kathimerini, a daily newspaper. The riots, he added, "were radicalizing every sector of the population."
On Tuesday, schools and universities were closed, and thousands of teachers and students joined generally peaceful protests through
George Dimitriou, 22, a member of the agriculture students' union, said the teenager's death was an opportunity to protest other issues. "Our generation is facing a tougher future than our parents," Mr. Dimitriou said as he stood outside
Demonstrations, even occasionally violent ones, are nothing new in
To many Greeks, scarred by the memories of military rule in the 1970s, the police remain a hostile remnant of the military junta.
The 15-year-old whose death is at the heart of the disturbances was fatally shot on Saturday night while carousing with friends in the
One police officer has been charged with premeditated manslaughter in the case and another as an accomplice.
Meg Bortin contributed reporting from