Greek police clashed with anti-austerity protesters hurling stones and petrol bombs on the day of a general strike that brought much of the near-bankrupt country to a standstill.
In the second major walkout in three weeks on Thursday, almost 40,000 protesters marched in Athens in a bid to show EU leaders meeting in Brussels that new wage and pension cuts will only worsen their plight after five years of recession.
Tensions mounted when a small group of protesters began throwing pieces of marble, bottles and petrol bombs at police barricading part of the square in front of parliament, prompting riot police to fire several rounds of teargas to disperse them.
Police detained about 50 protesters suspected of attacking them.
Most business and public sector activity ground to a halt at the start of the 24-hour strike called by the country's two biggest labor unions, ADEDY and GSEE.
"Enough is enough. They've dug our graves, shoved us in and we are waiting for the priest to read the last words," said Konstantinos Balomenos, a 58-year-old worker at a water utility whose wage has been halved to 900 euros and who has two unemployed sons.
It was the third time since late September that tens of thousands of Greeks have taken to the streets holding banners and chanting slogans to show their anger at austerity policies imposed by EU and IMF lenders in exchange for aid.
Some were carrying Greek, Spanish and Portuguese flags and shouted: "EU, IMF out".
"Agreeing to catastrophic measures means driving society to despair and the consequences as well as the protests will then be indefinite," said Yannis Panagopoulos, head of the GSEE private sector union, one of two major unions that represent about 2 million people, or half of Greece's workforce.
Greece is stuck in its worst downturn since World War II and must make at least 11.5 billion euros of cuts to satisfy the "troika" of the European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF, and secure the next tranche of a 130-billion-euro bailout.
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Editor's Note: Americans must -- must -- pay attention to why the Greek people must suffer this pain. Socialism does not work, period. There has never been a Socialist State that has worked and there never will be because the political system eventually suffocates any productivity used to create the wealth which it saps. Greek unions demanded more and more for their workers and the workers took without examining the consequences of accepting more than was financially possible. The Greek government blew by the financial limit that their GDP could withstand and now they are in debt and unable to repay the funds owed, while having to accept the terms of other nations in accepting financial assistance. The frightening thing here is that US debt dwarfs Greek debt. Should the world move away from the US dollar as its reserve currency, the American economy is doomed. Therefore, any presidential candidate running on a record of budgetary deficits, regardless of the reason, is detrimental to the economic viability of the United States....Think about it!!
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