Greek protesters: 'We lost confidence in our politicians'
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Thousands of people protesting against proposed austerity measures have gathered in front of the Parliament in Athens. Greeks say they are struggling to make ends meet and that cutbacks will only make matters worse.
Thousands of demonstrators flooded into the central Syntagma Square in Athens in front of the parliament where members are debating a new austerity package on Wednesday. But protesters are out in force across the debt-struck country.
Businesses shut down and public transport on land and sea across Greece is seriously disrupted as a mass general strike gets under way against the government. FRANCE 24 asked people in Greece to tell us how their lives have changed and what they expect for the future.
Manolis Andiotakis, 37, is a Greek freelance journalist and video producer in Athens, but has also taken translating jobs to make ends meet. Andiotakis says Greeks have mostly themselves to blame for their troubles.
“It is a complicated situation. We are very angry, but we should be angry at ourselves. We are facing a dead-end, the possibility of bankruptcy any day. I am concerned some people are advocating un-democratic solutions. The protests are legitimate, but there is no clear message and no alternative solutions coming from them.
"The austerity measures are very difficult to accept. Some measures are fair; we were living in a bubble, spending money we didn’t own. Other measures are not just. We should be totally opposed to privatization of certain industries.
"The big question is now how are we going to bring back growth? We have no strong industries like Germany or France. How can we bring in new investments? We need IMF intervention but we also need more social justice. It is very complicated and we are feeling very insecure.”
Stefanos Kantaratos, 41, works in his family’s curtain factory in Athens. He is against further austerity measures and says Greek politicians have proven to people they don’t care about them.
"I have lost about 80 percent of my work over the last two years. I am trying to keep the business going. I consider myself lucky that I still have a job. Many friends have lost theirs. Employers are firing everyone. I am making enough money to pay bills and cover business expenses, but now there is no money for going out.
"People are starting to get away from political parties. Before the crisis people followed political parties like football fans. We have lost confidence in political parties and this is why people are protesting in front of Parliament. You can see people of different parties, but they all share the same opinion of our leaders.
"I am hopeful for today’s protests. They may not produce big results, but I hope something changes. The austerity measures are going to make life worse. They want to sell off all public interests, like water, even sell off islands. How would you feel if the government was betting away parts of your country? I don’t want to go find that an island that I have gone to all my life now belongs to a big hotel and I can’t afford to go there anymore.
Craig Wherlock, 44, is a British expat and English teacher who lives in the city of Thessaloniki in Northern Greece. He blogs about his life in Greece and has written extensively about the crisis. Jobless, he was very close to returning to England earlier this year. “I found a job at the last minute, but it was just a matter of luck”, Wherlock said.
“I have witnessed a paradigm shift in Greek politics. What we are seeing is not just an economic crisis. This is a complete collapse of the political institutions. All the political parties, on both the left and right, have lost their ability to influence people. Opinion polls tell us up to 50 percent of people do not want to vote in the next election. People are saying “we are sick of it,” sick of a very corrupt and self-serving political system.
"People are extremely angry. These are not just leftists protesting. They are pensioners, housewives who have never been interested in politics, teenagers. They call themselves the “indignants”, after the Spanish. I have seen the price of consumer products increase by 20 to 30%. People are struggling to pay bills and are on edge.
"Greek families are very tight and parents are very involved in their children’s lives. Their hopes and visions for their children’s futures have been swept away in less than two years. They can’t help their 20 year-olds find jobs, because 50 year-olds aren’t sure they can keep their own.”