Clashes Break Out in Athens Over Austerity Measures

Greece saw on Friday its biggest outburst of violence since the country’s debt crisis escalated late last year.

A rally of more than 7,000 demonstrators — gathered outside the Greek Parliament to protest the $6.5 billion austerity package (equivalent to 2% of gross domestic product) which will increase consumer taxes and slash public sector workers’ pay by up to 8% — turned violent.

Masked youths chased ceremonial guardsmen away at the landmark Unknown Soldier’s Tomb and threw stones at police. The leader of GSEE, Greece’s private-sector union representing two million workers, traded blows with the rioters before being whisked away bloodied and with torn clothes.

According to AP, further violence broke out later Friday in the Greek capital, with masked demonstrators attacking riot police inside the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, and trying to break into the Labor Ministry.

The country is braced for a series of demonstration in the coming days against measures protesters believe are cruel, unjust and one-sided.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister George Papendrou — facing credibility problems with his European allies — had no other option but to adopt additional cost cutting measures, third in as many months, to convince the European Union and investors that his government can reduce Greece’s bloated budget deficit of some €30 billion that is over four times the EU limit as a percentage of annual output.

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