Greek austerity plan draws 80,000 to Athens square

Sun Jun 5, 2011 4:10pm EDT
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By George Georgiopoulos

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek government plans for yet more austerity to satisfy its international lenders brought at least 80,000 protesters on to a central Athens square on Sunday to vent their fury at the nation's plight.

With Athens struggling to avoid a debt default, the cabinet will discuss a medium-term economic plan on Monday which promises several years at least of extra budget cuts and faster privatisations, its side of a deal to get a second financial bailout in a year from the European Union and IMF.

Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou will then present the plan to the political council of his PASOK party on Tuesday, his office said, before the cabinet clears it the following day and sends it to parliament.

Greeks are showing signs of reaching the limits of their endurance as budget cuts imposed under Greece's first bailout a year ago have helped to push unemployment close to 16 percent.

Police said more than 80,000 people packed the main Syntagma square outside parliament on Sunday, although protesters accuse the authorities regularly of underestimating their numbers.

Protesters have gathered on the square every night for 12 days but Sunday's was by far the biggest rally so far in the series that draws inspiration from similar protests in Spain.

On Sunday, some banners also evoked the Arab Spring movement to oust authoritarian rule in the Middle East and North Africa.

"From Tahrir Square to Syntagma Square, we support you!" read one banner raised above a sea of splayed hands waved at the parliament building -- a highly offensive gesture for Greeks.   Continued...