ATHENS – Violence is continuing unabated in the Greek capital with anarchists breaking up a university lecture, throwing paint on a professor, and protesters trying to stop home foreclosures tangling with police again.
The ruling Radical Left SYRIZA of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras – who said he’s not soft on crime – has been under fire for a rampage of lawlessness across the city led by anarchists and terrorist sympathizers, who make up a core of his party too.
A group of about 10 people wearing masks smashed the windows of 10 banks and vandalized ATM’s in the downtown before fleeing into the anarchist stronghold neighborhood of Exarchia, the business newspaper Naftemporiki reported.
No claim of responsibility was made nor any reason given although she is a well-known expert on terrorism and has warned that more could be hitting Greece. Earlier last month, reputed anarchists tore into the office of a criminologist at Panteion University and smashed it up.
Five people were held during clashes between riot police and protesters attempting to disrupt a central Athens auction of foreclosed properties.
Left-wing activists have stepped up protests in recent weeks against online auctions as the government remains under pressure from bailout lenders to speed up the process and ease the strain on banks stemming from a huge backlog of bad loans.
With Tsipras having broken his vow “Not one home in the hands of banks,” national electronic foreclosures designed to get around sometimes violent protests began on Feb. 28 and aim to take scores of thousands of people’s homes to help the banks.
One of Tsipras’ key campaign pledges before taking power in January, 2015 was not to allow foreclosures or lift a moratorium put in place by rival parties in earlier governments he blamed for kowtowing to creditors and causing the country’s economic crisis.
Anti-foreclosure protesters broke into a Bank of Greece meeting Feb. 21 to denounce the loss of people’s homes.
The protesters – about 25 individuals believed to be members of the “I Won’t Pay” movement – were carrying banners with slogans opposing the auction of properties by people who can’t pay because of big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings by successive governments.
Members of a group opposed to property foreclosures staged a march in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, denouncing the e-auctions that will begin nationwide Feb. 28 on orders of the country’s creditors.
After saying he wouldn’t, Tsipras sought and accepted a third rescue package, this one for 86 billion euros ($105.67 billion), from the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) and agreed to more pension cuts, taxes on low-and-middle income families, an avalanche of new taxes and the foreclosures he condemned while out of office.
The presence and participation of notaries in the auction process is mandatory in Greece. Notaries in the country are law school graduates who specialize in drawing up contracts and keeping the original copies in their own personal registry. It wasn’t detailed how their role would interact with online foreclosures.
Association President Giorgos Rouskas told a radio station that the courtroom auctions will stop once the e-auctions start but that goals to let banks seize 10,000 homes this year is an “excessive number,” although the country’s international lenders want as much as 40,000.
Protesters were also threatened with automatic prosecution and jail if they got in the way but the anarchist group Rouvikonas, which broke into the office of one notary and vandalized it and made threats, said it would press action against foreclosures.
The auctions are required as part of the country’s international bailout, which is due to end in August. Creditors have also promised to deliver some debt relief for Greece if it fulfils all the conditions of the bailout.
The Greek government has promised to provide creditors a detailed plan next month of post-program reforms as part of the agreement to improve repayment terms. But creditors still disagree over the terms of Greek debt relief.
In Athens, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos insisted the government was determined to make a full return to markets this year.
Earlier, Greece raised 812.5 million euros ($1 billion) in a 12-month treasury bill auction. The Public Debt Management Agency said the T-bills were auctioned at a yield of 1.25 percent with the target sum of 625 million euros ($772.8 million) three times oversubscribed.
Greece has relied on international bailout loans since 2010 through successive programs. Since that year, it has twice tapped bond markets for longer-term loans, while maintaining regular three- and six-month T-bill auctions.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)