Latest austerity proposal met by 2-day general strike
ATHENS, Greece – Greece’s future in the eurozone came under renewed threat Friday as popular protests again turned violent and dissent grew among its lawmakers after European leaders demanded deeper spending cuts.
The country’s beleaguered coalition government promised to push through the tough new austerity measures and rescue a crucial $170 billion bailout deal after six members of the Cabinet resigned.
Prime Minister Lucas Papademos promised to “do everything necessary” to ensure parliament passes the new austerity measures that would slap Greeks with a minimum wage cut during a fifth year of recession. He also promised to replace any other Cabinet members who did not fully back his efforts.
In central Athens, clashes erupted outside parliament between dozens of hooded youths and police in riot gear. Police said eight officers and two members of the public were injured, while six suspected rioters were arrested.
The violence broke as more than 15,000 people took to the streets of Athens after unions launched a two-day general strike that disrupted transport and other public services.
Debt-stricken Greece does not have the money to cover a bond repayment on March 20, and must reach a vital debt-relief deal with private bond investors before then.
Greece has promised to approve the new austerity measures by late Sunday.
The cuts include a 22 percent drop in the minimum wage and plans to fire 15,000 civil servants in 2012, at a time when the unemployment rate is over 20 percent and the economy is in a fifth year of recession.
European leaders, however, are demanding deeper spending cuts. Eurozone finance ministers on Thursday said more austerity needs to be agreed to and set a deadline for the middle of next week.