By lambert strether of Corrente.
Here’s another in my series of quote dumps on protests by country; this time, I thought I’d focus exclusively on the GIPSI
PIIGS, so-called [See here; here and discussion here]; the southern tier of Europe that is in such distress. Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain. Since Europe is about to close down for the month of August — imagine, a month’s vacation! — I thought this would be a good time to take stock. What I’m seeing from my vantage point: Many strikes, some marches and demonstrations, nothing at all like the indignados, and above all no sense of a “European idea” from the ground up. And yet painful austerity is imposed on all from the top down, and the powers that be use the same playbook everywhere. It’s very curious. The grinding down seems relentless and continual, and yet every so often there is a spark, as in the successful, and to an extent European, resistance to the closing of the Greek broadcaster ERT. I’d love to be wrong on this, but I think the lack of coherence is the story right now. Things correlate in a crisis, and the grinding down is not a crisis.
Much of this material comes from official media, and I’m not making any representations as to accuracy of the report; more sources, please! I included some right wing items — they are part of political risk too, after all — but I left out Irish items about abortion protests and Protestant events in the North.
Portuguese stage general strike against relentless austerity Reuters 2013-06-27
Portuguese trade unions staged a one-day general strike on Thursday against relentless austerity which has deepened the worst economic slump since the 1970s, but support outside the public transport sector was patchy and the government seemed unlikely to back down. … Previous strikes and protests about the tough terms of Portugal’s 78 billion euro ($100 billion) bailout by the European Union and IMF in 2011 have been largely non-violent, unlike unrest in Greece or more recently Brazil and Turkey. … Thursday’s action also got off to a peaceful start. Nevertheless, public transport came to a virtual standstill as Portuguese, some too hard up to join the strike, expressed their anger and despair about policies which have helped to push unemployment to record levels. … “It’s simple – if I don’t work, I don’t eat. The government disgusts me, the austerity is stifling us, but protesting won’t feed my family,” said Augusto Nery, a 53-year-old electrician.
Lambert here: TINA.
Nurses’ strike hits Portugal hospitals Channel News Asia 2013-07-10
LISBON: Nurses launched a two-day strike in Portugal on Tuesday to protest salary cuts and longer hours imposed as part of the bailed-out nation’s austerity squeeze. … “Medical consultations and surgical operations will have to be cancelled because of the lack of nurses,” said Portuguese nurses’ union chief Jose Carlos Martins. … The union said 87 percent of nurses followed the strike call in the morning in protest at the extension of their work week from 35 hours to 40 hours and salary cuts. It said some nurses earned just 3.40 euros ($4.40) an hour.
Ana Maria Pinto: The Portuguese Opera Singer Who Could (Protest) Classicalite 2013-07-19
Portuguese soprano Ana Maria Pinto has become the face–or perhaps the voice–of popular protest in her native country. Though her published rep list includes such standard soprano fare as Musetta in La bohème or Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, these days she’s as likely to be singing outside in the streets as in Portugal’s opera houses. … It all started, says NPR, on October 5, when Pinto led crowds in song to drown out an address by the nation’s president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, on Republic Day. Security guards were reportedly confused by the fact that the soprano was singing opera. “At the end they asked me, ‘Is this part of the event?’ And I said, ‘No, this is my protest!'” Pinto said. … So, Pinto became an integral part of the protests against the country’s austerity budget. She put protestors’ preference for song over slingshots, or worse, as evidence of their strength as a society. And the soprano has now started the Coro de Intervenção do Porto (Intervention Choir of Porto) to sing in unified protest.
Life on the ledge: Meet Italy’s prolific protester The Local, 2013-06-04
In late May, Marcello Di Finizio climbed onto a ledge on the iconic dome of St Peter’s Basilica, where he hung a banner protesting against Italy’s ‘political horror show’ and called for help from Pope Francis. … [He says] his bold gesture partly reflects the desperation being felt in thousands of similar communities across Italy, where unemployment has reached a record high and the outlook is bleak. “We need to better understand what’s happening [says Di Finizio] …for Italians, it is even more confusing because the information from the media is controlled. The EU talks about liberation, but the people are asking: liberation for who? It’s the finance guys who win. …. Italians are worried because they no longer understand what’s happening. In politics, there’s no longer a right or a left. Everything sits on top of this EU pyramid. Politics no longer exist in Italy.”
Eiffel Tower strike goes into a second day as Rome’s Colosseum workers plan walkout Daily Mail, 2013-06-26
Two walkouts in the last week by workers at the Colosseum in Rome have caused chaos with visitors – many of whom had purchased their tickets in advance – were turned away at the door. …. Staff said they had outstanding wages still to be paid from January…
Lambert here: Tourism has a fragile and overly optimized supply chain too, as with any other globalized industry.
Costa Concordia captain trial delayed by lawyers strike Reuters, 2013-07-09
The trial of the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which capsized off Italy’s coast last year killing 32 people, was delayed just as it started on Tuesday because of a lawyers’ strike.
Lambert here: A salutary reminder not to project our situation onto other countries. It’s very hard to imagine a lawyer’s strike in the United States, for example.
Italy police probe noose protest against nation’s first black Cabinet minister Japan Times, 2013-07-16
Italian police on Monday were investigating far-right militants suspected of hanging nooses to protest Italy’s first black Cabinet minister, Cecile Kyenge, two days after a senator compared her to an orangutan. … The nooses appeared on lampposts with posters signed by far-right group Forza Nuova in the city of Pescara, where the minister for integration was attending an immigration and citizenship conference.
Gas stations closed in Italy Global Travel Industry News 2013-07-16
Tourists and visitors driving to Italy should fill up their tank prior to crossing the border into Italy starting this weekend. … Gas stations along major freeways will be closed due to a nationwide strike.
Can flowers really hide Italy’s race problem? Channel 4 2013-07-16
Senior Northern League figure Roberto Calderoli (pictured bottom), vice-president of the senate, told a political rally at the weekend that Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge (pictured below) had “the features of an orangutan”. A senator from Beppe Grillo’s Five Star movement today also spoke out in defence of Calderoli’s comments. Serenella Fucksia said: “What did he say that was so negative? I really don’t understand. I believe that if someone had called Mr Calderoli a pig, no-one would have said they were racist.”
The leader M5s: “The sentences Calderoli have had great timing.” Lettera 43, 2013-07-16. (Google translation. No search results on “Kyenge” for Grillo’s blog.)
For Grillo ‘indignation towards Calderoni is right. His racist joke to a minister of Congolese origin is to be condemned. ” But this “joke racist drunken bar has the gift of timing.”
Italian doctors strike over cuts to health service Reuters, 2013-07-22
Thousands of doctors went on strike across Italy on Monday to protest against cuts to the country’s health service, raising pressure on Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s government as it seeks further ways to slash spending. … About a hundred medics observing the four-hour strike gathered outside the Economy Ministry in Rome, waving banners and demanding more state resources for healthcare.
[Nuova Forza (New Force), a nationalist group that opposes immigration and wants Italy to ban abortion and support traditional families] has claimed responsibility for blood-smeared mannequins protesting the first black member of the Italian cabinet. … The mannequins were discovered in the central square of Cervia, a small city near Ravenna in northern Italy, police said Friday. Cecile Kyenge was scheduled to visit Cervia a few hours later for Democratic Party meetings, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. … The mannequins, dressed in jackets and jeans, had chests smeared with blood and signs reading “Immigration kills.” Police also found flyers opposing immigration around the square.
Gardaí accused of concealing evidence on baton use Irish Times, 2013-07-29
The troubled relationship between the Garda and the independent agency that polices it has deteriorated further, with the Garda Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) accusing the force of concealing vital evidence about students being hit with batons by gardaí at a protest over college fee increases. … Gsoc also said Garda headquarters delayed to such an extent the provision of evidence that the investigation into the scenes witnessed at the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) protest in Dublin on November 3rd, 2010, was compromised.
Lambert here: Note these Irish protests were a year before the carré rouge protests in Montréal.
Dublin Bus drivers strike over cost cutting plan Irish Times, 2013-08-04
No Dublin Bus services are operating today after drivers at the company started a strike in protest at cost-cutting measures.
Greece Hit by General Strike to Protest Austerity Times, 2013-07-17
Thousands of Greeks walked off the job Tuesday in a 24-hour general strike called by unions opposing a new round of austerity measures that the government has vowed to enact at the urging of the country’s foreign creditors. The sorest point is a much-delayed overhaul of the Civil Service involving thousands of layoffs and wage cuts, … The nationwide walkout, called by the country’s two main labor unions, which represent some 2.5 million workers, shut tax offices and other government services, reduced hospitals to emergency staff and disrupted travel. Trains remained in depots and international flights were suspended between noon and 4 p.m. as air traffic controllers joined the action. Public transport workers were running a reduced service to allow Greeks to join protest rallies planned for Athens and other major cities. … The unions’ appeal drew some 16,000 demonstrators onto the streets of the capital, according to a police spokesman who said the rally was “entirely peaceful.” Strikes have become a frequent occurrence as Greece’s economic crisis continues into its fourth year. The turnout Tuesday was moderate by Greek standards, in part because many people, particularly students and civil servants, have left Athens for their villages for the summer break.
Greece approves plan to fire thousands of public sector workers Reuters 2013-07-19
Greece’s shaky coalition government scraped through a vote on Wednesday on a bill to sack public sector workers as thousands chanting anti-austerity slogans protested outside parliament. … The bill includes deeply divisive plans for a transfer and layoff scheme for 25,000 public workers — mainly teachers and municipal police — that had triggered a week of almost daily marches, rallies and strikes in protest. …. About 5,000 Greeks flooded the street outside parliament as the vote neared, with some chanting: “We will not succumb, the only option is to resist” and holding aloft black balloons — though turnout was much smaller than in protests last year. … The reforms were passed hours before German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble — Europe’s leading proponent of austerity blamed by many Greeks for their woes — arrives in Athens for his first visit to Greece since the debt crisis began in 2009.
Protesters attack Greek health minister during hospital visit AFP, 2013-07-19
Greece’s Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis was shoved and hit by protesters Friday during an official visit to a hospital, just as the government is preparing radical changes to the health sector. A former member of extreme right party Laos, he joined conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s New Democracy last year. Some of the attackers reportedly shouted slogans targeting his extreme right political background.
Fed-up Greeks fight Sunday shopping plans Agence France Presse, 2013-07-21
A new attempt in Greece to open up shops on Sunday in order to fight recession and joblessness has run into opposition from an unlikely alliance of clerics, unionists and Athens shop-owners themselves. …. Along with their bailout, the creditors have also urged Athens to liberalise Greece’s traditionally closed economy. The push to liberalise Sunday opening hours comes as part of that effort …. Shop-owners say relacing the Sunday rules would actually penalise the dwindling number of small family-run businesses who cannot afford to hire extra help for the weekend, while any gain would be small owing to the recession-hit incomes across the country. …. “Eliminating the Sunday break will affect all sectors linked to trade and will soon be extended to the entire working class,” the [PAME] union said.
The heavy price of Greek gold The Ecologist, 2013-07-25
The large-scale clearance on this remote mountain-side [of Mt Kakavos] in north-eastern Greece is only the preliminary part of a gold mining project green-lighted by the country’s cash-strapped government; a development that will see open-pit mines and several huge tailing dams built within a concession that spans over 31,700 hectares of ancient forest and farmland. … Despite harbouring an underground treasure trove of precious metals estimated to be worth as much as €15.5bn (£13.5bn), the Greek government sold the Skouries concession in Halkidiki in 2003 for just €15.3m, in circumstances that remain unexplained. … On the roads that surround Skouries, banners hang across lamp posts demanding that “Eldorado go home”. The protesters are a coalition of local people and businesses, alongside academics, anti-austerity advocates and environmentalists. … Protests against the mining site in recent months have been met with tear gas, and running battles have ensued between riot police and protesters. Rania, a grandmother who did not want to give her second name, says she now suffers constant pain after being dragged from her car and stamped on by a police officer whilst attending one such protest.
Unpaid Dodoni Dairy Farmers Protest Greek Reporter 2013-07-27
Hundreds of breeders from Epirus, a Region northwestern of Greece, gathered July 26 outside the Dodoni dairy factory, demanding to be paid for the milk they had delivered and for which they said they had bot been compensated. … Reports said they broke the company’s main gate and tried to invade in the company’s building but were stopped by riot police amid clashes, stone-throwing and tear gas.
A Further Irish Engagement with the Greek Crisis and the Greek Left Counterpunch 2013-07-29. Discursive report of a longish stay in Greece, but detailed and nuanced. Well worth a read.
There followed hours of speakers from many countries, movements and unions, all saying more or less the same thing: how objectionable and oppressive neo-liberalism was and how we needed to combat it together. There were some multimedia intervals on various struggles and sometimes groups burst into song. It was great to be there with so much harmony of analysis and commitment to common action, but as the hours went on, the energy of it dissipated, as it was repetitious and exhausting. The Irish were tired and hungry and it was approaching 11pm. On the metro, we agreed that such repetition should be banned. When we settled into a café in Metaxourgio, someone said “Sorry, what exactly is wrong with neo-liberalism?” and we all wearily laughed. Unfortunately, we missed the speech of Alexis Tsipras, the finale and the concert that was to follow. …
The protest [at the attempted closing of ERT, the Greek public broadcaster] turned into an occupation. New territory was being charted now. The journalists and other employees of ERT decided to keep broadcasting. Various internet sites carried the broadcasts. The European Broadcasting Union gave its moral and technical support. The KKE gave over the frequency of its tv service to ERT for long periods. One remarkable feature of this occupation was that the KKE / PAME stood in the same space as Syriza, Antarsya, anarchists and other leftists, offering hope of a more co-operative relationship between these forces. …
[Syriza] are planning for a protracted process, which will include winning multi-party elections, perhaps entering into difficult alliances, undoing damage done, building the new in the shell of the old. On alliances, the preference is for alliances to the left, but Antarsya lack numbers and KKE rebuff all overtures. If only it were otherwise. So what is to be done? Suppose Syriza win the next election on 28% or even 30%. Even with the 50 bonus seats, where will they get the numbers to form a left government? As undesirable as it might be, should making up numbers with elements from Dimar or Pasok not even be discussed? Or should Syriza roll over and let ND form another government to wreak further disaster?
Greek civil aviation workers call strike against layoffs Reuters, 2013-08-02
Greek civil aviation workers plan to disrupt flights for three days next week in protest at government plans to fire 300 airport staff, their union said on Friday. Greek labour unions have gone on strike repeatedly since early 2010, when the country was plunged into a debt crisis and sought a bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund to avert bankruptcy. Traffic at major Greek airports is not expected to be disrupted because air traffic controllers are not participating.
Acropolis Sell off in Greek Archaeologists Protest Greek Reporter, 2013-08-03
Greek archaeologists staged a protest against 500 job losses, using the country’s past as symbols of the present which included a cardboard cut out of the Acropolis with a ‘for sale’ sign. … Also on show was a cardboard cut out ship with an EU flag as a sail, featuring Angela Merkel as a figurehead symbolising Greece being driven on a course set by the EU and especially Germany. … Despoina Loutsouba from the Greek Archaeological Union compared the job losses to another ancient practice: “We are shouting about stopping the human sacrifices in Greece and it’s not only Greece it’s all over Europe. It starts here. And if democracy started here and spread everywhere in the world, now the human sacrifices will start here and spread through the world,” she said. Greece has 19,000 archaeological sites, staffed by nearly 7000 people.
Torrevieja Protests Call For Rajoy’s Resignation The Leader, 2013-07-15
The anti-corruption platform, which includes the Group 15-M, Torrevieja Pensioners and Feminists 15.M, gathered on Saturday afternoon at the PP Headquarters in Torrevieja’s Plaza Isabel II, to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the calling of early elections. …. About thirty protesters carried banners and chanted slogans demanding an end to corruption and the resignation of prime Minister Rajoy who, despite a series of well-documented allegations that he has received illegal cash payments over a period of years, seems prepared to tough it all out knowing that parliament and the nation are about to pack up for the summer. … There are more than 200 cases of corruption currently before the Spanish courts involving politicians ranging from village mayors to former cabinet ministers, and even the royal family.
Angry at Spanish corruption, protesters break out the chorizos Christian Science Monitor, 2013-07-19
If you walked by the Spanish ruling party’s offices in any of dozens of cities late Thursday, it may have looked a bit like a barbecue. But while there were plenty of chorizos – the succulent, red Spanish sausage – being wielded and, in rare cases, cooked, they were in fact symbols of protest. … In Spain’s slang, “chorizo” also refers to thievery and cheating – the “chorizos” here being Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and ruling Popular Party officials who have come under intense social and political pressure this week following a court-revealed alleged corruption scheme. … The protests, organized through social media networks to demand the resignation of Mr. Rajoy, were small. But they expose growing public anger over corruption, which exacerbates already serious frustration over the grueling economic crisis. There were several injuries and multiple arrests reported, although the marches were largely colorful and peaceful.
Lambert here: This is the only item I found that has the playfulness (the chorizos) I associate with the indignados (and some Occupations).
Madrid anti-Government protests cast shadow over 2020 Olympic bid Inside the Games, 2013-07-19
A shadow has been cast over Madrid’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics as Spanish police clashed with thousands of protestors in the Spanish capital demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. … Although on a considerably smaller scale, the trouble in Spain echoes the problems experienced by fellow 2020 Olympics bidder Istanbul when Turkey was hit by widespread – and widely publicised – anti-Government protests.
Lambert here: The Olympics seem to be having similar effect in Turkey and Spain as the World Cup in Brazil.
Spain hits the streets again against government corruption Digital Journal, 2013-07-19
Dubbed 18J, on Thursday thousands of people in 30 cities right across Spain demonstrated in the streets, protesting government corruption and calling for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his government to resign. Over 1,000 people rallied outside the Madrid headquarters of the Partido Popular (PP), brandishing banners and chanting “Hands up, this is a stick up!”, “They do not represent us” and “The treasurer has our money!” … Thousands of other Spaniards congregated in Barcelona, La Coruna, Málaga, Valencia and Zaragoza on Thursday, protesting outside party headquarters in each city. In Valencia, activists wrote “Democracy has died here” on the tarmac. Not to be outdone, the hactivist group Anonymous infiltrated the PP’s website a few hours before the protests began. They splashed their logo on the home page of the website with the words “Government Resignation” underneath.
Protests skyrocket as Spain takes to streets The Local, 2013-07-30
[T]here were 44,233 demonstrations in Spain in 2012, or more than double the 2011 figure of 21,297. … It also means there were an average of 121 protests per day in 2012. … Andalusia was the protest capital of Spain on a region-by-region basis with the southern region notching up 7,742 protests in 2012. … Of these, around a third (1,103) involved people demonstrating against political measures and laws. The [Interior Ministry] report shows that just over a third of these demonstrations, or 15,182 concerned workplace relations issues. Almost a quarter (9,780) were protesting political measures and laws and around 10 percent (4,443) centred on neighbourhood issues. Just under 3,000 demonstrations were demonstrations in support of ETA and the release of ETA prisoners. Almost half of all of Spain’s demonstrations in Spain in 2012 were organized by unions, with that number being 18,695. Meanwhile citizen’s groups staged around a quarter of these protests, or 10,566. Business and worker groups were also responsible for a high number of demonstrations at 7,825.
Spanish HP workers to strike indefinitely New Europe, 2013-08-04
Around 2,000 HP employees in Spain, from offices in cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza and Oviedo, have been called for an indefinite strike that began this morning. After a new plan to cut salaries up to 10% and increase weekly working hours to 60, ended in internal conflicts and layoffs, trade unions from HP Consultant and Applications and HP Outsourcing organised the strike. In León, workers from HP Outsourcing, who already went to strike last October, decided to join the protest and carry placards with the motto: ‘Decent work is not a privilege’. The new plan includes the distribution of 230 working hours unevenly, meaning that Spanish employees might have to work on Sundays without salary. HP told Spanish media Silicon News, that the company is in the middle of discussions with trade unions and that conclusions can not be made yet. HP Spain considers that the new measures are “reasonable” and that they will “minimise adverse effects” for workers. [T]he strike is already causing supply problems to HP clients, including national banks like BBVA, Santander or Caixabank. These financial institutions are suffering several interruptions in their ATM’s services, which are controlled by HP Outsourcing.
Lambert here: Well well. ATMs.