When the gods dance...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Heading for a lost decade? Latin lessons for Europe…and more.


Posted: 05 Apr 2013 02:50 PM PDT

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Buckling under the structural power of its private creditors, the European periphery seems destined for a lost decade of austerity. What can be done?

Now that the botched bailout of Cyprus has reignited the flames of Europe’s never-ending debt debacle, it suddenly appears to be all the rage again to make historical comparisons between the ongoing euro crisis and previous crises in Latin America. Piling on to a long list of comparisons between Greece and Argentina, for instance, Paul Krugman last week invoked Argentina’s 2001 corralito as a precedent for the imposition of withdrawal limits in Cyprus, claiming this to be the first part in a script that will eventually lead to Cyprus’ euro exit.

Yet the longer the European debt crisis drags on, the more obvious it becomes that the appropriate comparison here is not with the explosive collapse of Argentina in 2001-’02 — in which total financial meltdown led to a spontaneous popular uprising that witnessed over 20 protesters killed in two nights, five presidents unseated in two weeks, and the largest-ever sovereign debt default imposed on private creditors in the history of capitalism — but rather with a much more destructive and drawn-out event: the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s.

Latin America’s Lost Decade

What set the Latin American debt crisis of 1982 apart from the Argentine crisis of 2001-’02 — and why is this difference relevant for Europe today? Well, first of all, Argentina actually refused to honor a large part of its external debts. In December 2001, it defaulted on $93 billion of public external debt and subsequently restructured its outstanding obligations in a highly forceful setting, offering its private creditors a take-it-or-leave-it deal that eventually saw a majority of 93% of creditors accepting a repayment of a mere 35 cents on the dollar.

The crisis of the 1980s, by contrast, did not witness any form of debt repudiation. Although dozens of Latin American countries became embroiled in the crisis, only three countries — Brazil, Argentina and Peru — briefly experimented with temporary debt moratoriums or reduced debt repayments; but all of them eventually fell back into line and dutifully kept repaying their debts. Interestingly, this remarkable degree of debtor discipline contrasts sharply with the wave of defaults that rocked the world during the crisis of the 1930s.

The subsequent economic trajectories of Argentina post-2001 and Latin America in the 1980s therefore could not be more dramatically opposed. While the Argentine economy boomed back to life in spectacular fashion in the wake of its 2001 default, Latin America in the 1980s gradually sank deeper and deeper into the abyss. After years and years of neoliberal austerity and reform, by 1990 real income in Mexico was still lower than it had been in 1982. Not surprisingly, therefore, the 1980s became known in Latin America as the década perdida: the lost decade.

Why Not Default?

This brings us to another question: if default was still considered a legitimate policy response in the 1930s, and proved to be such a fiscal catharsis in Argentina in 2001, then why did Latin America not default en masse in the 1980s — and why does Southern Europe not default en masse today? The answer to this question, my own PhD research on Latin America suggests, lies in the dramatically changed nature of the global financial system — and the implications these structural changes have had on the power of private creditors.

In the 1930s, sovereign lending was largely organized on the basis of bond finance: big banks would bring together large and dispersed groups of small-scale investors, who would then put up the capital required to buy up large amounts of government bonds. The purchase of these bonds provided Latin American governments with the credit they needed and provided the banks in New York and the City of London with handsome intermediation fees. Still, the risks of the investment were ultimately born by these dispersed investors.

Since these small and dispersed investors found it difficult to organize among themselves — and since gunboat diplomacy and military invasion had been delegitimized as a crisis resolution mechanism in the wake of WWI, and there was still no equivalent to the IMF to come to the rescue of private creditors — the debtor countries were in a relatively powerful position to default on their loans once they hit the hard times of crisis in the 1930s. In a word, the small and dispersed private bondholders were powerless: they simply could not resist default.

The Structural Power of Wall Street

This contrasts markedly with the sovereign lending regime of the 1970s. By 1982, bank syndication had largely replaced bond finance as the main form of lending to governments. This time around, Wall Street banks syndicated loans to Latin American governments, bringing together numerous banks to put up adequate amounts of capital, but concentrating the debt firmly on the balance sheets of some of the biggest and largest US-based banks. Suddenly, the bulk of Latin America’s debt was held by some of Wall Street’s most powerful banks.

This, combined with the existence of the IMF — which had been set up in the wake of WWII and was now being reformed into a neoliberal handmaiden of the Reagan administration — changed everything. A wave of defaults by the Latin debtors now threatened the very stability of the global financial system, while the syndicated nature of lending allowed the banks to organize a closely-knitted “creditors’ cartel”. Colluding with the US government and the IMF, the banks isolated the debtors through a case-by-case approach to debt negotiation, pitching a united creditor front against a series of helpless individual debtors.

As a result, the new financial structure allowed the big Wall Street banks to exert enormous power over their debtors, without even having to resort to lobbying or other direct forms of exercising political influence. By the 1980s, the power base of the big banks had become structural in nature: if the debtors failed to pay up, the bankers could credibly threaten that they would cut the debtors off from the global financial system altogether simply by immediately withdrawing all outstanding investments and refusing to extend any new credit.

This ability to withhold and withdraw credit — which would have had dramatic consequences for the ability of Latin American governments to import food or oil, for instance, or to continue funding basic social expenditures — gave the Wall Street banks a unique form of structural power over debtor governments. Working together closely with the US Fed, the Treasury Department and the IMF, large bailouts were organized that imposed highly punitive conditions on the debtors, while always insisting on full repayment for the banks.

The Argentine Exception of 2001

If anything, Argentina in 2001 proved to be an exception to this evolving rule. While the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s and the East-Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s had both revolved around an increasing concentration of lending in an ever-shrinking oligopoly of powerful Wall Street banks, lending to Argentina in the late 1990s had once again taken the form of bond finance. Argentina’s creditors, in other words, were mostly small and dispersed individual investors, like ordinary middle-class households in Italy.

When the Argentine crisis initially hit, the Wall Street banks that had exposure to Argentina immediately tried to dump their bonds on secondary markets — selling them on at lower face value to hedge funds and to those same small investors in Europe. Unaware of the risks they were taking on, for instance, many Italian pension funds simply poured the life savings of millions of middle-class Italian families into the risky Argentine bonds that the Wall Street banks were now trying to get rid off. The results were catastrophic.

By December 2001, it had become clear that Argentina’s debt load had become both economically and politically unsustainable. Widespread social unrest was undermining the legitimacy of the ruling elite, and the introduction of the corralito — which imposed draconian withdrawal limits on bank deposits — led to a social explosion that threatened to destabilize the entire state apparatus. Still, as Paul Blustein records in his account of the crisis, Wall Street bankers had to convince Argentine policymakers of the inevitability of default.

So rather than the Argentine government imposing a dramatic default on powerful Wall Street banks, as both the populist propaganda of the Kirchner government and the uninformed interpretation of the international media would have it, Argentina’s default was actually actively pushed for by Wall Street bankers, who had long seen the collapse coming and had already offloaded their exposure. While Wall Street did suffer some losses, it was the ordinary, dispersed, unsuspecting and therefore powerless bondholders who suffered the brunt of the default.

Structural Power in the European Debt Crisis

In the build-up to the European crisis, by contrast, the pendulum once again swung back to debt concentration in the biggest and most powerful banks. While Greece’s accumulated debt was mostly in the form of sovereign bonds, these bonds were concentrated in some of Europe’s most powerful banks: BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole of France, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank of Germany, and ING of the Netherlands. Meanwhile, the same core banks invested heavily in Portuguese and Italian bonds and in Spanish and Irish real estate.

As a result, when the European crisis first hit in early 2010, those players who stood to lose the most were the powerful banks of the core. These banks had become so systemically important to the global financial system that a collapse of one of them would have had dramatic repercussions for the system as a whole. Ironically, this vulnerability gave the banks enormous structural power over the process of crisis management: without even exerting any direct pressure, the banks could virtually outlaw default as a realistic policy response.

In other words, Latin America’s lessons for Europe are more troubling than one would think. When sovereign lending becomes concentrated in the hands of a few systemically important and structurally powerful banks, the interests of debtor nations will tend to be undermined in dramatic fashion — with all the concomitant repercussions for living standards and democratic processes. Rather than expecting an Argentine-style default anytime soon, perhaps what we really should be expecting is another lost decade of austerity and deferred dreams.

Time for a Push?

And yet it would be foolish to give up the struggle — especially when the lives of millions of Europeans depend on it. It is here that the Argentine lessons of 2001-’02 are most instructive and hopeful. In fact, it is not the nature of Argentina’s crisis management but rather the nature of its popular uprising that should be a source of inspiration to those in the European periphery today. What the piqueteros taught us in December 2001, is that the only way to force a capitalist state to respond to its people in times of crisis is by systematically destroying that state.

Of course, the Argentine state eventually survived — thanks in large part to the populist measures undertaken by the Kirchner government — but not before a spontaneous popular uprising had destabilized it to the point where default had become the only option left for its embattled elite. This, then, appears to be Latin America’s lasting lesson for Europe: a crisis-ridden and heavily indebted capitalist state will not simply jump over the edge and surrender to the will of the people. To default on its debts, it will need to be pushed — and we remain the only ones who can do the pushing.

Tiny Cyprus tells neoliberal Europe to get lost

Posted: 19 Mar 2013 10:24 PM PDT

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In the face of massive popular outrage, Cypriot MPs spectacularly vote against a bank deposit tax imposed by the Troika, leaving the eurozone reeling.

We almost stopped believing it was possible, but apparently some lawmakers in European debtor states still have the guts and ability to stand up to their cocky, greedy and reckless foreign creditors. On Tuesday, an overwhelming majority of Cypriot MPs spectacularly voted against a bank deposit tax imposed by the Troika of lenders — with not a single MP voting in favor, despite the President’s warning that a no-vote would lead to financial armageddon. The tax was a prerequisite for Cyprus to receive its 10 billion euro EU-IMF bailout; the country’s dramatic act of defiance now leaves the eurozone reeling in great uncertainty as to the repercussions for the single currency.

Of course, the neoliberal European Goliath has itself to blame for the rebellious behavior of tiny Cyprus, whose 17 billion euro economy constitutes only half a percent of total eurozone GDP. After all, it was they who on Saturday blackmailed the Cypriot government into imposing a bank deposit tax of 9.9% on rich depositors — mostly Russian oligarchs – and 6.75% on ordinary Cypriot savers with less than 100.000 euros in the bank. The bank deposit tax was needed, according to EU and IMF officials, in order for Cyprus to contribute 7 billion towards the 10 billion euro EU-IMF bailout. If creditors were to take the burden of covering the entire 17 billion euro shortfall, so their reasoning went, it would both outrage German voters and take Cypriot debt levels to unsustainable levels.

But as soon as the “agreement” was announced, it immediately became obvious that the bailout was botched. The 10 billion euro emergency loan alone will already push Cyprus’ debt-to-GDP ratio to an unsustainable 130%, forcing an unprecedented degree of austerity onto the country — the likes of which would make even the Greek plight look like a walk in the park. But more importantly, perhaps, Cypriot depositors were rightly outraged by what effectively amounted to a government raid (spurned on by foreign creditors) on their hard-earned savings. While wealthy bondholders were once again let off the hook, ordinary Cypriots were forced to pay for the reckless behavior of their shady offshore banking sector and the irresponsible crisis management policies pursued by the European Union and IMF.

Taking to the streets in the thousands in an attempt to convince the government to backtrack on its commitment to foreign creditors — and simultaneously taking to the banks in the hundreds of thousands in an attempt to retrieve their savings — the panicked reaction of the Cypriot people threatened not only to spill over into a wholesale loss of confidence in the political system, but also to unleash nothing short of a potentially self-destructive and internationally contagious bank run, which could have had dramatic reverberations across the eurozone as depositors elsewhere might conclude that their savings are no longer safe either. Protesters in Nicosia were therefore right to carry placards into the streets in Spanish and Italian: it may be us today, but there is no doubt that you will be next.

Under this immense popular pressure, and under the general threat of a crippling bank run and mass capital flight that could force the Cypriot government to pump even more liquidity into its banks — which would in turn require it to print money, implying a forced exit from the eurozone and a return to the Cypriot pound — a total of 36 out of 56 MPs voted against the deposit tax, with 19 prominent government MPs abstaining and one absent. Not a single MP voted against. How come? Why did Cypriot lawmakers suddenly decide to listen to their own people, where Greek, Spanish, Irish and Portuguese MPs have made a profession out of backstabbing their voters?

Perhaps, and this may be naive, it is due to some genuine sense of demophobia — fear of the people? Even conservative market analysts have noted that the Cypriot bailout “highlights how post 2007 efforts to resuscitate and rescue western economies have continued to favor the vested interests of the financial sector, while treating the “population at large” with disdain and contempt – this sort of attitude is still a seedbed for social revolution, as has been witnessed above all in the Arab Spring.” Wolfgang Münchau of the Financial Times similarly observed that, “If one wanted to feed the political mood of insurrection in southern Europe, this was the way to do it.”

Luckily, there are other ways. With the total value of the Cypriot banking sector adding up to roughly eight times the tiny country’s GDP, Cypriot lawmakers might take a cue from Iceland, which just allowed its banks to go bust — and then went after the corrupt bankers who rigged the game to begin with. At the moment, the Cypriot economy is little more than a financial washing machine for dubious Russian oligarchs and disgustingly wealthy Greeks. This bizarre state of affairs has to end. If Cypriot politicians are to take the needs of their own people seriously, they should crack down on the island’s financial sector like they would crack down on any other mafia enterprise.

In this respect, the spectacular decision by Cypriot MPs to reject the creditor imposition of a deposit tax on ordinary citizens must not just be the start of some halfhearted attempt to extract better terms from the EU and IMF in return for continued bailouts, nor an attempt to safeguard the special interests of Russian oligarchs and foreign businesses using the Cypriot banking system as an offshore tax haven. Rather, it should be the start of something much more radical: a pan-Mediterranean campaign to reject the imposition of banker control and foreign creditor demands altogether. After all, only if sovereign states are shown to be capable of setting their own social and economic agenda can European leaders begin to rekindle at least the illusion of presiding over a democratically accountable society.

Whether such reformist crumbs will prove to be enough for an increasingly restive European population — which is now starting to demand the whole bloody bakery in revenge for the neoliberal raid on their daily bread — remains a different question altogether…

TNI report: using the crisis to entrench neoliberalism

Posted: 18 Mar 2013 03:41 PM PDT

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Rather than solving Europe’s crisis, EU institutions are allowing corporate elites to further enrich themselves through a fire sale of state assets.

The text and infographics below are excerpted from a new working paper, Privatising Europe: Using the Crisis to Entrench Neoliberalism, which was just released by the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam:

The European Union is currently undergoing the biggest economic crisis since its foundation 20 years ago. Economic growth is collapsing: the eurozone economy contracted by 0.6% in the fourth quarter last year and this slump is set to continue. The euro crisis was incorrectly blamed on government spending, and the subsequent imposition of cuts and increased borrowing has resulted in growing national debts and rising unemployment. Government debts in crisis countries have predictably soared: the highest ratios of debt to GDP in the third quarter of 2012 were recorded in Greece (153%), Italy (127%), Portugal (120%) and Ireland (117%).

Europe’s member states have responded by implementing severe austerity programmes, making harsh cuts to crucial public services and welfare benefits. The measures mirror the controversial structural adjustment policies forced onto developing countries during the 1980s and 1990s, which discredited the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. The results, like their antecedents in the South, have punished the poorest the hardest, while the richest Europeans – including the banking elite that caused the financial crisis – have emerged unscathed or even richer than before.

Behind the immoral and adverse effects of unnecessary cuts though lies a much more systematic attempt by the European Commission and Central Bank (backed by the IMF) to deepen deregulation of Europe’s economy and privatise public assets. The dark irony is that an economic crisis that many proclaimed as the ‘death of neoliberalism’ has instead been used to entrench neoliberalism. This has been particularly evident in the EU’s crisis countries such as Greece and Portugal, but is true of all EU countries and is even embedded in the latest measures adopted by the European Commission and European Central Bank.

This working paper gives a broad and still incomplete overview of what can best be described as a great ‘fire sale’ of public services and national assets across Europe. Coupled with deregulation and austerity measures, it is proving a disaster for citizens. Nevertheless, there have been clear winners from these policies. Private companies have been able to scoop up public assets in a crisis at low prices and banks involved in reckless lending have been paid back at citizens’ expense.

Encouragingly though, there have been victories in the battle to protect and improve Europe’s public services which serve as beacons of hope. There is even a counter-trend of remunicipalisation taking place in Europe as people have become aware of the cost and downsides of privatising public services, particularly water. As public awareness grows that the European Commission far from solving the crisis is using it to entrench the same failed neoliberal policies, these counter-movements and growing popular resistance can work together to halt the corporate takeover of Europe.

Read the full report here.

Halkidiki: where neither numbers nor people thrive

Posted: 12 Mar 2013 07:43 PM PDT

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“Come and invest in Greece! Don’t worry about those rebellious local communities; we will safeguard your investments, all in the name of development!”

Photo: Protesters and residents from a holiday resort in Northern Greece march against plans by a Canadian company to build a gold mine in the area, in Athens, on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. The protest against the venture in the Halkidiki peninsula follows clashes with police last week between residents and riot police near the site of the proposed mine. The banner reads ”No to gold and disaster. Cops out from Halkidiki.”

There’s a book by Francesco Guccini and Loriano Macchiavelli in which a “spirit” comes down from the Apennine mountains to sabotage the Bologna-Florence railway. Nobody knew who it was and it became kind of a legend among the workers, because the sabotage was a revenge for an explosion in a tunnel that cost the lives of many of their co-workers.

There’s another similar story that Ivo Andric narrates in his “Bridge on the Drina”: the Bosnian peasants are obliged by the Ottoman central authority to take up forced labor in order for a bridge to be constructed over the river. At some point the peasants rebel and, under the leadership of a certain Radislav from Uniste, decide to sabotage the construction. So at nights, they go and destroy what is built during the day, or make the equipment “disappear” — into the river of course. They spread the rumor that the vilas (fairies) of the water just don’t want the bridge to be built.

That’s what last month’s events in Halkidiki in Northern Greece reminded me of…

On the night of the 16th of February, a group of around 40 people who are against the construction of the Eldorado Gold’s gold mine in their area, attacked the Company’s (yes, in Greece I think we should start talking in such terms these days) working site in the Skouries forest. Armed with shotguns and their faces covered with pasamontañas, they set the Company’s equipment and cars on fire while allegedly holding hostage the two security guards, dousing them with petrol and threatening to set them on fire if they reacted. After that, the masked saboteurs disappeared as rapidly as they had appeared.

Or, at least, that’s the story the mainstream media of Greece reproduced, because according to the local media, the claims of the hostage-situation and the petrol dousing were never confirmed — neither were they mentioned in the announcements of the company or the Minister of Public Order.

In any case, the Greek government set off on an unprecedented witch-hunt to locate the “saboteurs” (“terrorists”, according to the government), including arresting a bunch of 15-year old kids from their high school to be taken for interrogation in the police station, forcefully taking DNA samples from such “suspects”.

A couple of days ago, this state-terrorizing campaign reached its peak with an invasion of the riot police in the town of Ierissos. There, the police started invading houses and looking for “evidence”, while the inhabitants of Ierissos of course reacted by creating barricades and trying to force the police out. The riot police, however, did not hesitate to throw smoke bombs and chemicals inside the town, including the school, inside which a student was injured and several others experienced difficulties breathing.

Of course, this government “crusade” in Halkidiki is not about capturing the “terrorists” per se, or even about bringing justice. It goes beyond that. This is a showdown on behalf of the central authority that it will not tolerate any kind of resistance to what the government considers “development”. Even when this type of “development” goes absolutely against the will of the local communities it is supposed to benefit.

After all, the Prime Minister of Greece, Antonis Samaras, and his Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras keep repeating in their public appearances that “development” is what will take Greece out of its economic impasse (“As an economist I believe that this [development] is the cure for Greece”, Samaras said in a meeting with Angela Merkel). But what does Samaras’ “development” look like?

It is well known in development studies that an economistic, centally-planned, income-based developmental approach that doesn’t take into account the local needs and communities, at times leads to a situation in which “the numbers thrive but the people suffer”. Well, in Samaras’ development, neither the numbers nor the people thrive. They both suffer, as it is now obvious to the IMF even, after 6 years of recession worsened by the Troika’s — and the Government’s — measures.

Yet the case of Halkidiki is even more interesting and characteristic of the role of the state in the era of neoliberalism: a state that is willing to sell its assets even below market price, to have its police act as “private army” of the buyers, without absolutely any benefit for the national economy, just to pledge loyalty to the — invisible? — God of the Market.

But let me briefly introduce you to the case of the gold mine in Halkidiki, so you can draw your own conclusions.

In Halkidiki, and especially in the area of Kassandra mines, it has been known since ancient times that there’s gold and copper. In 1996, the Canadian company TVXS submitted a plan to mine the gold and copper, yet the citizens of the area reacted, took the case to court on the basis that a huge-scale mining process would heavily affect the forest and the surrounding areas of enormous environmental beauty, and they won the case.

The court at the time decided that the protection of the environment was beyond any capital profit. The company went bankrupt, of course did not remunerate its workers, who on their behalf started long hunger strikes pressuring the government to do something for them. In the area, mining activity is the largest single-sector source of employment.

The government, in 2003, came up with the solution: it would sell the right of mining the Forest of Skouries and its two preexisting mines as well as the nearby areas (covering an area of 317.000 square meters in total) to a company that was created just three days before the deal, Hellas Gold. And it would do so for only 11 million euros (it is estimated that in the area there is gold worth 6 billion euros and copper worth the same — the mines are worth 12 billion euros in total).

Hellas Gold itself was created with an initial capital of 60.000 euros (!), which was invested by Bobolas’ AKTOR (35%) and the Canadian Eldorado Gold (30%). Yet, three days later the Greek state buys the mines from TVXS for 11 million euros, and on the same day, without any open competition process, sells it to Hellas Gold for the same amount of money. Of course, the money the Greek state received went for the remunerations of the workers of TVXS, therefore the Greek state took the responsibility to pay the money a foreign company was owning to its workers.

Today, 95% of the investment belongs to Eldorado Gold and 5% to AKTOR (Bobolas, who is the owner of AKTOR is also the owner of several media outlets in Greece, including a TV channel, newspapers, etc.).

In 2008, the European Commission (not the Greek judicial system) questioned the transaction and fined the Greek state for having sold the mines below their legitimate market price, as well as for having subsidized Hellas Gold with an estimated sum of 15.3 million euros for avoiding transfer taxes and expenses of the lawyers involved in the transaction and the workers of TVXS. The European Commission demanded that this sum should be returned to the Greek state.

Yet, the Minister of Environment at the time, Giorgos Papakonstantinou (the same man involved in the Lagarde list scandal), appealed to the decision, asking for the private company not to pay the money back to the Greek state (!). Now pay attention:

The Greek Minister of the Environment appeals to a decision of the European Commission that forces a private company to pay 15.3 million to the Greek State. At the same time, only 25 days after taking office he also approves the Environmental Impact Assessment the company needed in order to start construction works. “The country cannot do without the inflow of foreign investments”, Papakonstantinou said when asked in an excellent documentary by Exandas.

Yet the investment is not only going to damage irreversibly the environment of the area (according to a scientific research produced by a group of nine professors from Aristoteleion University of Thessaloniki, the water and soil will be heavily poisoned while the flora, fauna, and agriculture will suffer irreversible damage and the area as such will become a heavy industry zone), but also comes into land conflict with other livelihood activities that take place in the area (farming, fishing, bee breeding etc.), which will have to stop since their vital space will be used up for mining.

And above all, thanks to the Greek Mining Code that was drawn up and has remained unaltered since the times of the dictatorship of the generals who voted it, the Greek state will receive no royalties from the corporate exploitation of the gold and copper mines whatsoever. All the benefit will go straight to the company, tax-free.

The only “benefit” the Greek State will “gain”, are the around 5.000 jobs (according to the company and the Greek state) that will be created in these times of crisis (crisis for some, opportunity for others). Of course, these 5.000 jobs will last for as long as the mining activity itself is expected to last: a period of 27 years.

The Greek government is stubbornly protecting the Canadian company’s investment, even by invading the town of Ierissos and terrorizing the inhabitants, having decided to sacrifice the mountains, rivers, and coasts of Halkidiki, in return for 5.000 jobs for 27 years. And then what, you may wonder. Well… in Samaras’ economistic view of development, that question does not seem to matter. He will probably not be in the political business by that time anymore anyway.

The Greek government’s stance in the case of the Halkidiki mines, as well as in the case of the nine-month steelworkers’ strike that it broke, is characteristic of the role it chooses to play under the pretext of the financial crisis: the role of the protector of the investors, even against the local communities’ or the workers’ will. And it is sending a message: “Come and invest in Greece. It does not matter what the local communities think, we will protect and impose your investment, in the name of ‘development.”

Indeed, the Greek state insists, “we will even lend you our police if required.” So far we have seen this film in Halkidiki and Aspropyrgos, and we may very well see in in Crete — for example — in the near future, where the inhabitants oppose the massive installation of industrial scale Renewable Energy Sources projects (iRES) on the island. Or in Italy, Portugal, Spain, Ireland — who knows? This type of neoliberal development may soon come “to a cinema near you”.

P.S. On the same day that the government sent the police to invade Ierissos, a Golden Dawn spokesperson was going to trial for a neo-Nazi attack that took place a couple of years ago against a university student, after which the assailants left with his car as it was recognized by an eyewitness who noted down the plate number.

Ilias Kasidiaris (you may remember him, he is the one who attacked and punched a woman MP of the Communist Party on live coverage a year ago), even though he could not provide any evidence of himself (and his car) being in a different place at that time (a hospital, he claimed), in a court room full of Golden Dawn members, was acquitted of charges. “Due to doubts”, said the prosecutor.

P.S. #2 “Justice is just another whore in our little black book, and believe us, it’s not the most expensive one”, writes Subcomandante Marcos for those “above”…

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