Journalists, political parties become targets of rising violence amid austerity.
By Andy Dabilis for Southeast European Times in Athens -- 16/01/13
Riot police walk past a portrait of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras as they enter the New Democracy party's headquarters in Athens. Shots were fired early on Monday (January 14th) after a recent wave of arson attacks against political offices. [AFP]
Authorities in Greece are expressing grave concerns about an outbreak of extremist violence directed against journalists, political entities and government institutions, believed to be triggered by unrest over the nation's austerity measures.
Gunmen early Monday (January 14th) fired at least nine shots at the office of New Democracy leader and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at the New Democracy headquarters. One bullet, from a Kalashnikov assault rifle, pierced a window. Security guards said they saw two men getting out of a car, which was believed stolen and torched in a nearby neighborhood, but nobody was arrested.
There were 17 firebomb attacks over the previous weekend, including at the Crete office of the major opposition party Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), as well as against other offices of New Democracy and one of its coalition partners, the PASOK Socialists.
And a group called Militant Minority-Lovers of Lawlessness claimed responsibility for bombings of journalists' homes that came after police pushed squatters out of an abandoned building popular with Leftist and anarchist groups who had used it for two decades, and for another on the home of ex-Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou in December. Last month, the offices of the neo-Nazi extreme right Golden Dawn party was bombed.
"Violence is going to increase all over the country because of the austerity measures and putting people under so much pressure," John Nomikos, a security and terrorism analyst who runs the Athens-based Research Institute for European and American Studies, told SETimes. "More people can't survive and the middle class is reaching the limit. People are getting very aggressive."
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou , whose brother's home was firebombed , said the assault on Samaras' office is troubling.
"It is a new and worrying escalation from those who want to spread terror in our society," said Kedikoglou, who said he has been receiving threatening phone calls. "The difference between inflammatory statements and inflammatory attacks is very small. There has to be a clear denouncement of violence and verbal violence."
Unemployment in Greece tops 26 percent and a new tax plan sets a rate of 42 percent on many middle-class families, while increasing the corporate rate from 20 percent to 26 percent.
The government also is under pressure from its Troika of international lenders, the EU-IMF-ECB Troika, to do something about tax evasion. Greece is even calling in tax experts from other EU countries to help.
Antonis Klapsis, head of research for the New Democracy think tank the Konstandinos Karamanlis Institute for Democracy in Athens, told SETimes that while no one had taken responsibility for the shooting at Samaras' office, "It's likely a reaction against all these reforms made by the government. There's a small minority who disagree with everything and will do whatever it takes to stop it, but these terrorists won't have their way."
George Tzogopoulos, a research fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy in Athens, told SETimes that despite the seriousness of the incident, "We shouldn't isolate this as a terrorist attack … I wouldn't necessarily link it the austerity measures."