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5 Reasons Democracy Is At Risk In the Country Where It Was Born

5 Reasons Democracy Is At Risk In the Country Where It Was Born

In a victory for free speech in the country where democracy was founded, a Greek court acquitted journalist Kostas Vaxevanis, who edits an independent magazine, Hot Doc, of charges of breaching privacy. Vaxevanis was arrested last month after publishing a list of 2,059 names of wealthy Greeks suspected of evading taxes by putting their money into Swiss bank accounts. Among those on the list are a former culture minister, several employees of the country’s Finance Ministry and prominent figures in business and journalism.

A prosecutor charged that Vaxevanis had “offered blood and turned the country into a coliseum.” The journalist countered that his publication of the names was “not a legal issue, but a very important social and political one,” with implications for Greece’s broken economy.

“Lagarde’s List” of Tax-Evading Elites

Vaxevanis, who faced up to two years in jail and a €30,000 fine (£24,000) if convicted, has asserted that the names he published are simply the same as those leaked by a former HSBC computer technician in Geneva. This list was found in January of 2009 when French police found computer files for 130,000 tax evaders; they passed the names on to Christine Lagarde, who is now the chief of the International Monetary Fund. As France’s finance minister in 2010, Lagarde passed the list on an unmarked CD to Greece’s former finance minister, George Papaconstantinou, when Greece was trying to crack down on tax evaders to help its (still) ailing economy.

Papaconstantinou claims he gave the head of the tax police the names of those with the biggest balances and that he was not pleased with the lack of follow-up. Papaconstantinou has since been replaced by two other finance ministers. The whereabouts of the list are unclear, with Papaconstantinou saying that he left it “at the office”and media outlets are saying that he lost it.

At his one-day trial, Vaxevanis accused politicians of simply holding onto the list and doing nothing, while protecting certain “untouchable” magnates and their money while the majority of Greek people have been suffering through round after round of austerity measures that the government has insisted must be carried out for Greece’s economy to recover and to keep it in the European Union. As Vaxevanis noted in his testimony, one of those named on the list, Greek oligarch and former Proton Bank chairman Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, was given a $129 million bailout under former finance minister and current Socialist party leader Evangelos Venizelos.

A Crisis of Democracy in Greece

Greece is in the midst of a “crisis of democracy” and is currently run by a coalition government whose members are “in thrall” to businessmen who own, and censor, the media, Vaxevanis said after his acquittal.  Here are 5 reasons that democracy is endangered in the country where it was born:

1. Possible ties between the police and the Golden Dawn

Vaxevanis was arrested shortly after he published “Lagarde’s list” by a swarm of some 50 police officers. In contrast, after Golden Dawn MP Illias Kasidiaris was arrested for assaulting two left-wing MPs on live television, police were somehow unable to locate him for days. Kasidiaris finally turned himself in.

2. Protesters allegedly tortured by the police

15 Greek anti-fascist protesters who were arrested after they clashed with members of the neo-Nazi party, the Golden Dawn, on September 30 say they were subjected to what their lawyer called “Abu Ghraib-style humiliation” and torture. 25 people who were protesting the next day in support of their fellow anti-fascists were themselves arrested and beaten and made to strip naked while in custody.

The anti-fascist protest was held after a group of 80-100 people vandalized a Tanzanian community center in a central Athens neighborhood near Aghios Panteleimon, which is considered a stronghold of support for the Golden Dawn.

The Greek minister for public order, Nikos Dendias, threatened to sue the Guardian for its coverage of the abuses but has not followed through with his statement.

3. TV news show critical of the government axed

After journalists Kostas Arvanitis and Marilena Kasimi reported that Dendias had not followed through on his threats to sue the Guardian, they were subsequently informed that their morning news show on NET, one of Greece’s national TV stations, was being axed. Previous governments had already reduced the show’s airtime from four to two hours, says the New Statesman.

4. Growing divide between the rich and the poor

The gulf between the elites on “Lagarde’s list” and most Greeks grows day by day, with some people searching through dumpsters for food, as Vaxevanis wrote before his trial.

Recent statistics from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) show that 2.3 million Greeks were living below the poverty line in 2010. The report also emphasized that “Greece is among the European countries with the greatest financial inequalities, as the richest 20 percent of the population had an annual income that was six times that of the poorest 20 percent.”

5. Ongoing economic woes and austerity measures on the way

The economic forecast for Greece is as bleak as ever, with one out of four people unemployed and the economy in its fifth year of recession. If the Greek Parliament, the Vouli, passes the next round of austerity measures demanded by the EU to receive bailout funds, Greece’s health budget will fall to 6 percent of its GDP. In comparison, the European average was 8.3 per cent in 2008; in most countries including Germany and France, the health budget is over 10 percent.

Greece is a member of the EU and other European governments, such as those of Germany and France, have backed the current Greek government. But doing so has made them complicit in that government and its policies, including its suppression of free speech, as Greek investigative journalist Yiannis Baboulias explains in the New Statesman: ” By standing by in silence, the EU is allowing a government that grows more oppressive and authoritarian every day to silence us.”

“Us,” as in Greeks. “Us,” as in all of us who believe in democracy and why we must fight to keep it alive in Greece, in the EU and around the world.

 

Related Care2 Coverage

Downton Abbey Censored for Gay Kiss on Greek TV

Why U.S. Media Won’t Show You These Protests

Would You Work Six Days a Week? Greeks May Have No Choice

 

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69 comments

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4:08PM PDT on Mar 29, 2013

People out there Beware the Lion is Going to Eat the Lambs.
I certainly wish more people could have the understanding of the World Economy, I know I don't know enough.
Thanks for the article, and Thank You Very Much Raphael Z.

11:03PM PST on Dec 19, 2012

Johnathan

What are these people warning us about?

"The bankers own the earth. Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create money, and with a flick of the pen they will create enough money to buy it back again.
However, take away from them the power to create money, and all the great fortunes like mine will disappear, for this would be a happier and better world to live in.
But, if you wish to remain the slaves of bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create money."
-Sir Josiah Stamp
Former Director of
the Bank of England

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous than standing armies...
If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of currency,
the banks and corporations that will grow around them, will deprive the people of their property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered"
Thomas Jefferson

"There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation, One is by the sword. The other is by Debt"
John Adams

"Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognized as it's most conspicuous and sacred responsibility, all talk of sovereignty of Parliament and of democracy is idle and futile...Once a nation parts with the control of it's credit it matters not who makes the laws...Usury once in control will wreck any nation."
MacKenzie King
Canadian Prime Minister

10:44PM PST on Dec 19, 2012

JOHNATHAN H

You are repeating the same lies that conform the narrative disseminated by the corporate Media that have filled up your narrow mind so you can go on shooting your own foot.

Debt-based currency is created by private banks every day they make loans.
This means nearly every single dollar or Euro exist as debt to a bank. Therefore if governments, businesses and people paid back all their loans we would end up with no money in circulation, choking the economy altogether. THIS IS WHY THE MORE AUSTERITY, THE WORSE IT GETS.

The world is in a debt crisis which is FAKE, it's artificial, it's been set up over the last 300 years by the same cabal of international bankers who control the FED and their vehicle is called FRACTIONAL RESERVE BANKING SYSTEM allowing private banks to create the money supply OUT OF THIN AIR.

The national debts are FAKE because nations don't have to borrow the money they need. They can do exactly the same private banks do, which is to create it out of nothing, except nations can do it INTEREST-FREE

The FISCAL CLIFF is for morons who don't understand the current monetary system. That means there are billions around the world, including clever ones like you, who lives asleep while thinking of himself a genius

Lincoln created the GREENBACK interest-free and also Canada did from 1935 to 1974 with no inflation and no debt

YOU HAVE NO CLUE WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT

8:52PM PST on Dec 19, 2012

Jonathan H. You need to tele-transport yourself back to the late 19th century -- as a worker -- then perhaps you'd get it.

8:29PM PST on Dec 19, 2012

This site is full of big spending, government regulating, tax increasing socialists who hate Capitalism. Rafael Z doesn't know much on economics. Businesses create wealth and profit. Government only takes wealth away and can never create wealth. Greece politicians with the aid of unions, socialists, and environmental extremists, bankrupt the profitable companies with their over-burdened benefits and salary packages. Then to add more insult to the economy, they demand a never ending and increasing flood of entitlements and more social spending. Natually, they sell the snake oil argument that their making the "rich pay their fair share" while getting more and more government handouts. The Over-spending in Greece came to its logical sad end and so it will be for the USA if the nation doesn't reign in its massive over spending.

1:38PM PST on Dec 11, 2012

thanks

7:25AM PST on Nov 21, 2012

GREECE WAS SET UP TO CRASH BY GOLDMAN SACHS

It is so unfortunate most people are being brainwashed by a corporate media purposely lying to further their master's agenda.

STOP FOR A MOMENT AND THINK!!
The same Goldman Sachs who criminally aided the very same corrupt politicians in power today in Greece, to lie and deceive the European Union in order to qualify to enter the Eurozone, are back trying to buy Greece's assets at cents on the dollar.

When Papandreu, the ex Prime Minister, tried to conduct a referendum (like Iceland did) to ask the people if they wanted to do austerity, he was kicked out of office by the International Financial Elites, using their surrogate "administrators", Sarkosi in France and Merkel in Germany, to do their dirty work. He was replaced by an EX-GOLDMAN SACHS executive.

The same happened in Italy where they still have an EX-GOLDMAN SACHS executive running Italy. Monti was forced in with no elections and is ruinning the country.

The head of the ECB (European Central Bank) is an EX-GOLDMAN SACHS employee who is making sure all debts are paid with blood if necessary.

This is a well planned attempt by the International Financial Elites to expand their control, using debt as their weapon.

Their goal is a World Government with a World central Bank controlled by them

WAKE UP and stop watching that garbage in CNN, FOX, CBS, ABC, NBC, BBC, CBC ....

6:58AM PST on Nov 21, 2012

JOHNATHAN H.

You are brainwashed watching too much FOX News

DIVIDE AND CONQUER

GOLDMAN SACHS was paid 82 million dollars commission by corrupt Greek politicians and oligarchs, to apply criminal ENRON-STYLE financial "techniques" to hide debts in obscure overseas accounts, in order to qualify to enter the Euro-zone when Greece wasn't ready
It is THIS FACT what has brought the crisis not only to Greece, but to Spain, Portugal, Ireland and all the weaker countries within the Euro-zone

THE EURO MESS
The Euro design has flaws that have tilted trade in the strongest counties' favor.
Normally when trade goes one way in a surplus to a country and deficit on another, currencies adjust by going up or down accordingly, until eventually finding a balance
So for instance if Greece is building a deficit while having a separate currency, the Drachma would have been lowered in relation to the German Mark and that action would have lowered imports in Greece and increased exports for later finding the balance
The result would be NO CRISIS

But because they are under the same currency, this can't happen and if you watch, the same amount of surplus Germany has against the countries in the Euro zone, is the same in deficits all hold to the Germans

The problem is not "socialism", it is corruption applied from the highest levels of international Financial Power who planned the Euro, the financial bubbles and the crash that is affecting us all.

10:44AM PST on Nov 11, 2012

This article notes that one in four are unemployed. That is probably an understatement. My family consists of 3 members and all three of us are unemployed. Two of us are over 60 with no chance of finding work and no government benefits to help us survive. If there is any help out there please offer me a job.

8:41AM PST on Nov 10, 2012

thank you

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