Greece's general strike

CNC report from Athens
Added On February 21, 2013

Greeks are again protesting their government's harsh austerity measures and reform program by initiating and participating in a 24-hour general strike -- the first of the year. 

Beating drums, blowing whistles and chanting "Robbers, robbers!" tens of thousands of Greeks marched in central Athens and other cities on Wednesday.

SOUNDBITE (GREEK) PROTESTER:
"The only solution to change this situation is mobilization. Only if we -all the people who suffer- unite, we can win this battle. The austerity policies that the Greek government has adopted should stop. Everything is very difficult, but we as a new generation must be optimist for the future."

In the capital, riot police fired tear gas at hooded youths hurling rocks and bottles during a demonstration, mostly of students and pensioners, which ended peacefully.

SOUNDBITE (GREEK) PROTESTER:
"This is not a policy for Greeks or for any other nation. We demand democracy, socialism and our rights. The only way to change this situation is by altering conscience. As long as our conscience turns to the truth, something can change and we might see a light of hope in the end."

The new strike was organized by the country's two largest labor unions, GSEE and ADEDY, which represents most private and public sector workers.

The strike comes ahead of a new audit by EU-IMF creditors next week that will determine the release of new rescue financing to Greece.

Facing a sixth year of continuous recession, the heavily indebted country has been relying on international rescue packages to avoid bankruptcy and get its economy back on track.
  
Since 2010, the EU and the IMF have committed 240 billion euros overall in rescue loans to Greece.

In exchange, Greece is required to conduct tough spending cuts and tax hikes, which have fueled unemployment, recession and reactions on the streets.

Government officials and lenders have argued that austerity is a necessity to avert bankruptcy and pledged development-boosting measures to exit the crisis in coming years.

Greece's economy fell by 6 percent in the last quarter of 2012, as the country is still deeply mired in debt crisis.

Unemployment in Greece rose to a record 27 percent in November, the highest in the EU.