THESSALONIKI, Greece — Angry Greek farmers on Jan. 30 kept up their roadblock of a major highway, demanding tax cuts and saying they won’t relent a summons for protest organizers to appear in court and faces charges of disrupting transportation..
Protest leader Rizos Maroudas accused the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, which had supported protests while out of office, of wanting those behind the demonstrations prosecuted to avoid the embarrassment of ordering their arrest first.
He said he and another nine organizers have received summonses for inciting the blockades. More than 200 farmers with tractors blocked the main north-south highway linking Athens and Thessaloniki at Nikaia, outside the northern city of Larissa, forcing long traffic diversions and others are threatening to do the same elsewhere in the country.
They are protesting tax hikes and pension measures imposed during Greece’s bailout programs under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who vowed to help them before breaking his word and repeatedly reneging on anti-austerity promises..
Hundreds of farmers parked their tractors along one lane of the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway at the Nikaia junction in Farsala, central Greece on Jan. 29, signaling the beginning of another round of farmers protest that happen from time to time before the farmers withdraw after the government ignores their demands.
The blockade was expected to grow as more farmers join from Karditsa and other parts of the region said they would join, while other roadblocks are being set up in northern Greece and expected to spread to the Peloponnese and possibly Crete in the coming days or weeks.
The protests, noted Kathimerini, have become an almost annual event after the winter harvest and have affected imports and exports, as well as the supply of agricultural products to the local market.
Organizers also want the government to agree to other demands, including a minimum price on their products, lower production costs by reducing the price of electricity and scrapping the Value Added Tax (VAT,) higher pensioners, lower social security contributions, more aid for natural disasters, and protection from creditors.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)