Tens of thousands rally in Athens

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Tens of thousands of workers and youth participated in yet another mass rally outside the Vouli (Greek parliament) in Athens yesterday, demanding the overthrow of the Greek government and the so-called second bailout agreement imposed by the European Commission (EC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of huge reductions in wages and pensions and savage spending cuts in health and education.

The leaders of the GSEE (Greek TUC) had called on trades unions to take part in the rally to ‘defend the Constitution, Democracy and Human Rights’, but there was no call at all for strike action.

Last Friday morning, hundreds of school students congregated outside the Vouli and were attacked with tear gas canisters by the riot police. Later a group of German artists of the Schwabinggrad Ballet staged a protest outside the German Embassy in Athens; and all eight of them were arrested by the riot police, held for three hours but later released.

The outrageous robbery, last Friday morning, at the Archaeological Museum for the Ancient Olympic Games in Olympia has forced the Minister for Culture to offer his resignation but this was not accepted by the Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.

Some 70 bronze and clay statuettes of the 7th to 3rd century BC were taken away in broad daylight by two gunmen holding Kalashnikovs. Last month another art robbery took place at the National Gallery in central Athens when paintings by Picasso and Mondrian were stolen.

Both the Ministry for Culture workers, trade union and the Greek Archaeologists Association blamed the savage spending cuts by the government as creating the conditions for such robberies to occur. But some archaeologists are sceptical about the nature and the purpose of these robberies.

The Greek Cabinet met on Saturday evening and accepted all the new conditions attached to the bailout agreement of some 130bn euros by the EC and the IMF. Additional cuts are to be made on pension and public spending while the so-called EC-IMF Task Force stationed in Athens will be enlarged and a tighter control on the Greek government applied.

The bailout fund instalments will be deposited in a special bank account, most probably in Paris, from which the interest of Greece’s previous loans will be paid straight into the international banks. The Greek government also accepted ‘the possibility’ that it will have to make more cuts in a few months’ time so as to top-up the interest paid.

These agreements have greatly agitated and infuriated workers and youth who recognise the government as the stooges of the EC and IMF.

This week the Papademos government is to introduce bills in the Vouli, implementing the bailout agreement.