Greeks Approve Austerity Plan, Central Athens in Flames

on February 12 2012 6:47 PM
A cyclist rides past a burning building during violent protests in central Athens
A cyclist rides past a burning building during violent protests in central Athens, February 12, 2012. REUTERS

Greek lawmakers early Monday accepted terms of a deeply unpopular austerity plan that Eurozone leaders demanded as the price for financially rescuing the debt-choked nation.

Despite days of violent street protests that left central Athens in flames early Monday and the already horrendous consequences of an earlier austerity plan -- unemployment in Greece now tops 20 percent -- the governing coalition of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos received a majority of votes necessary in the Parliament to pass a plan to slash government spending, including pensions, hike taxes and chop the minimum wage.

Rioters threw fire-bombs at police and at the Parliament building, destroying part of its marble facade. Police, more than 50 of whom were injured, responded with tear gas and flash grenades. More than 70 people had been taken to hospitals and about 25 rioters were being detained. Numerous buildings in central Athens were burning.

Vandalism, violence and destruction have no place in a democratic country and won't be tolerated, Papademos told parliament as it prepared to vote on the new ... bailout to save Greece from a chaotic bankruptcy, according to Reuters.

The lawmakers' vote appears to to be the last obstacle to the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank giving Greece $172 billion. The nation has only weeks before a $19 billion bond redemption and - barring the rescue money from the so-called troika - is expected to default.

Among the measures included in the latest austerity plan is a 22 percent cut in the minimum wage and layoffs for 15,000 government employees.

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