Saturday, June 16, 2012

Greece Will Vote, World Will Watch

What Austerity Has Wrought: Boom in Soup Kitchens 

Greek voters will cast ballots Sunday in the second parliamentary election in the past six weeks.

Observers worldwide will be watching the poll, which is seen as a referendum on the euro.

Arguably, however, the vote is a referendum on forced austerity. Five years of severe spending cuts in the name of "reform" have mired the country in a deep and worsening depression. Soup kitchens reflect the growing poverty. Officials say it's not only the homeless who go to eat there, but also many who have homes but not enough money to buy food. Starvation, homelessness, and suicides are increasing Twenty-five percent of workers and half of all young people are unemployed.

Not surprisingly, many Greek voters support Alexis Tsirpas, leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), who aims to repeal the austerity measures imposed by Greece's Eurozone partners.

Huge Anti-Austerity Protests

In related news, huge anti-austerity protests took place Saturday in Spain, Portugal and Italy.

The largest confederation of Portuguese workers (the CGTP) organized a rally in Lisbon to protest against the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission--the institutions that are enforcing austerity, which is strangling some southern European countries.

The confederation of Italian labor unions (CGIL ) organized protests to demand lower taxes for workers and retired people, more resources toward reducing unemployment, and more efforts by the government to catch tax evaders.

In Spain's capital Madrid, protesters rallied against government plans to save the country's leading bank, Bankia.  Eurozone leaders last week approved a $125 billion loan to shore up Spain's leading banks which are in trouble, but warned of the need for "reform."

Protesters accused the government of being more concerned with saving the country's financial systems than with easing austerity measures that hurt ordinary people.

Such loans usually carry an obligation on the part of the borrowing country to slash social services and cut spending. Harsh economic measures have caused hardships and sparked anger and unrest in southern European countries.