TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Steve Chitoakis: Greece continues to grapple with enormous debt. There isn’t much help being offered besides perhaps a lifeline from the European Union. And now thousands of public and private sector workers are on strike today, in the streets of Athens chanting “No sacrifice for the rich.” Reporter Joanna Kakissis is in the middle of it, she’s with us now from Constitution Square, near the Parliament building. Joanna, are you with us?
Joanna Kakissis: Yeah, hi, I’m a little tear gassed but OK.
Chiotakis: Oh jeez. Tell me what you’re seeing right now.
Kakissis: Well, there are tens of thousands of protestors here, they’re mostly the people are on a general strike, which is what Athens and all of Greece is on today. And they’ve gathered around Parliament Square right now and have started to fight with police. They’ve been doing it sporadically for the last maybe 20 minutes to 30 minutes. And there are riot police all over, with, armed with tear gas, with riot gear on. And there was a little outbreak of violence and I’m thinking that there’s going to be another one, because people are putting on their masks again!
Chiotakis: Why are they so angry, Joanna?
Kakissis: Well, the second set of austerity measures that George Papandreou, the prime minister, announced last week got a lot of people angry, because it cut into already low wages in Greece. And the public sector here feels that they’re paying for a mess that they didn’t cause. They feel like, well the Greek government stole the money, maybe Wall Street was in on it, and why should we pay for their mess?
Chiotakis: Do the Greeks, Joanna, do they understand the severity of this problem, that the country can go under? That there are so many severe ramifications of Greece defaults on its debt?
Kakissis: Yes, I think they do understand that these problems are very serious. But I also think that the average Greek thinks that he or she cannot give any more than they already have. The average wage here is about 700 to 800 euros a month, which is very low. The taxes, I mean there have been tax increases proposed on tobacco and luxury goods and alcohol, and those haven’t caused much of a peak. But the wage cuts have just outraged people here, because they feel like their wages are already low enough. One guy tells me, “Well, I don’t care of Greece collapses, because I’ve already personally collapsed, I don’t have anything else to give.”
Chiotakis: Joanna Kakissis, thank you, we appreciate you being with us today from Athens.
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