Greek police used teargas on anti-austerity protesters in Athens on Wednesday, as thousands of demonstrators marched toward parliament amid a 24-hour nationwide strike.
As Greece struggles to pay back overwhelming amounts of bailout loans, journalist and documentary maker Aris Chatzistefanou says the country is facing an even bigger issue.
“When you have huge debt like the one that Greece and other countries in the European periphery are facing, you start losing levels of democracy and I’m afraid that has happened,” he told RT.
Chatzistefanou spoke to RT about Wednesday’s protests and the wider picture regarding Greece’s ongoing economic woes.
RT: Workers in Greece are steadfast in trying to force the government to get rid of the bailout deal, but is there any other way to help the economy?
Aris Chatzistefanou: Many progressive economists have said for the last two or three years that these austerity measures will create not only social genocide in Greece, but they will destroy the infrastructure of the economy. And now we are talking about debt that is still increasing after three austerity packages. And if everything goes as planned, we will have a debt of 175 per cent of GDP. Don’t forget that before the IMF and the troika intervention in Greece, we had a debt of 115 per cent. So it’s exactly these austerity measures that create the problem.
There are many alternative plans for example, default, because everyone knows that right now it’s impossible to repay a huge debt like that – even if we accept that it’s legal. And many people say that it’s not legal. That it’s illegal. Many other economists have spoken about exiting the eurozone. Even Paul Krugman has characterized the eurozone as a straightjacket for Greece which created this huge debt to the economy.
RT: These are big figures we’re talking about. And we see pictures here of protesters. Either way, the protests in Greece have turned violent many times over these recessionary years. How are things in Athens looking, where you are?
AC: Today we had one of the biggest demonstrations in the past five years, with organizers saying it exceeded 100,000 people. It was mainly a peaceful demonstration in Athens but I’m receiving now some message of small clashes in parts of Athens with police using teargas and some protesters reacting by throwing stones and fire bombs to the police. But I think we should keep that it was a mainly peaceful demonstration and one of the biggest of the last five years or so. I’m saying that because we will see in the news tonight only the clashes with the police, which is not the main message of what happened today in Athens and other cities in Greece.
RT: In a wider sense, you’ve described the situation in Greece as a ‘debtocracy.’ Do you mean the crisis has now somehow become a political regime?
AC: With the title of our documentary, Debtocracy, we wanted to explain that when you have huge debt like the one that Greece and other countries in the European periphery are facing, you start losing levels of democracy and I’m afraid that has happened. Don’t forget that one year ago, we had a non-elected prime minister and after the election we have a government that promised to renegotiate the debt but never did. They only invest in riot police and unconstitutional bills that impose more austerity in the country. I’m afraid we are becoming a third world country, not only as far as the economy is concerned, but also as far as democracy is concerned.