Greek Parliament Passes Austerity Bill as Rioters Burn Buildings

Sunday, 12 Feb 2012 06:35 PM

 

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Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos won approval from parliament for austerity measures to secure an international bailout after at least 151 members of the chamber voted for the measure, according to a tally of votes.

The roll-call voting in Athens is being televised live on state-run Vouli TV and took place as police battled rioters in Athens protesting the measures including state jobs cuts.

Ten buildings were set on fire in central Athens by protesters including a Starbucks Corp. cafe, a bank and a movie theater, a fire department spokesman said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in line with official policy. The blazes were near a bank that was set on fire in May 2010, killing three bank employees during a general strike against Greece’s first bailout package.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told lawmakers before the vote on the accord to secure a 130 billion-euro ($172 billion) second aid package that “we must show that Greeks, when they are called on to choose between the bad and the worst, choose the bad to avoid the worst.”

Demonstrators, rallying against austerity measures, tore up marble in front of parliament that they hurled with fire-bombs at police guarding the chamber. Officers in riot gear responded with tear-gas and flash grenades. More than 50 officers were injured in the violence, police spokesman Takis Papapetropoulos said by telephone. The Greek Health Ministry said in an e-mailed statement that 70 people had been taken to local hospitals. Police said 25 rioters had been detained.

‘Vandalism, Violence’

“Vandalism, violence and repression have no place in democracy and won’t be tolerated,” Papademos told lawmakers before the vote. “In such critical times we have no luxuries for such conflict.”

Papademos said Greeks aren’t afraid of sacrifice and called for support for the budget cuts needed to win the aid while leaders of the two biggest parties urged their lawmakers in parliament to pass the austerity bill today or risk financial meltdown.

With only weeks remaining before the country faces a 14.5 billion-euro bond payment, George Papandreou and Antonis Samaras, the leaders of the two largest parliamentary parties, urged support for the bill as lawmakers, with an eye on elections as early as April, bristled at measures such as a 22 percent reduction in the minimum wage, smaller pensions and immediate job cuts for as many as 15,000 state workers.

The measures equal about 7 percent of gross domestic product over three years and include a debt swap that would shave 100 billion euros off more than 200 billion euros of privately held debt.

Greece was granted its first aid package of 110 billion euros in May 2010.


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