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Greece Unrest

Greeks know how to seize the moment

Nelson Alcantara  Dec 11, 2008

Talk about seizing the moment, what started as “anarchists” protesting the killing of a teenager by police has somehow managed to become more catastrophic with workers joining in on the action protesting against the largely-conservative Greek government’s economic policies.

On Wednesday, a general strike, which has been reported to include air traffic controllers, has halted flights to and from Greece, making the convergence of riots and workers' demonstrations the worse crisis to hit Greece in recent memory.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has made an appeal to rioters and demonstrators. He said the government is determined not only to make citizens feel safe, but to support businesses that suffered damages through subsidies, loans, and tax-relief measures.

Main socialist opposition leader George Papandreou also appealed for an end to the violence that has gripped more than 10 Greek cities. "I appeal to all to show responsibility, restraint, and to end the violence that our country is experiencing these days," Papandreou said at a press conference.

According to published reports, the opposition socialist party has overtaken the ruling conservatives in opinion polls and is now calling for an election.

Meanwhile, the civil unrest in Greece has given some governments a reason to issue a travel warning. The continuing possibility of civil disturbances and demonstrations throughout Greece, in the wake of the violent demonstrations that began last weekend and yesterday’s general strike, were cited as reasons.

So far, the United States, Britain, and Canada have urged their citizens to exercise caution when traveling to Greece.

The US Embassy in Athens said: “We remind American citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. American citizens are, therefore, urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstration. American citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times.”

The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office urged Greece-bound visitors to exercise “extreme caution.” They advised travelers to buy travel and medical insurance.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada is advising Canadians to exercise a “high degree of caution” if visiting Greece. Canadians visiting Greece are warned to avoid all crowds and demonstrations, monitor local news reports, and follow the advice of local authorities.

The Greek Commerce Confederation has estimated the damage to businesses in Athens alone to be around US$259 million. Hotels were among the 565 establishments that rioters targeted.

(with wire inputs)

Greeks know how to seize the moment
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