Greece 'Paralysed' As General Strike Bites

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Greece 'Paralysed' As General Strike Bites

Post by Isakenaz on Thu Oct 20, 2011 11:02 am

Day two of a general strike in Greece has brought much of the capital to a standstill, as parliament prepares to back a controversial austerity plan.

At least 10,000 protesters are outside the building in preparation for the vote - many trying to prevent its members reaching the chamber.

The vote, expected this evening, was preceded by confirmation from international debt inspectors that the country would receive the next instalment of its bailout money.

Although the inspectors said Greece had missed its targets to get borrowing down, Athens would get the 8bn euros so the country could avoid bankruptcy.

The terms and conditions behind the rescue plan have infuriated the Greek people.

24 hours earlier, hundreds of youths smashed and looted stores in central Athens and clashed with riot police.

More than 100,000 people took to the streets of the Greek capital to demonstrate against the austerity bill.

The plan includes new tax hikes, more pension and salary cuts, the suspension on reduced pay of 30,000 public servants and the suspension of collective labour contracts.

It won initial approval in the 300-member Parliament late on Wednesday, with 154 deputies voting in favour on principle and 141 against.

Prime Minister George Papandreou has urged wavering deputies to back the package.

Greece had warned it would run out of money in mid-November without the 8bn euro instalment.

Hours before Wednesday's vote, one of Athens' largest demonstrations in years degenerated into violence as masked and hooded youths pelted riot police outside Parliament with petrol bombs and chunks of marble smashed from buildings.

Police responded with tear gas and stun grenades.

Authorities said 50 police were injured in the clashes, along with at least three demonstrators, while 33 people were held for alleged involvement in the rioting.

At least 15,000 demonstrators took to the streets in Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city and thousands more in Patras and Heraklion.

The new measures have even prompted some politicians from the governing Socialists to threaten not to vote for at least some of the articles in the bill.

But finance minister Evangelos Venizelos said: "It is an anguished and necessary effort to avoid the ultimate, deepest and harshest level of the crisis.

"The difference between a difficult situation and a catastrophe is immense."

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