A 77 year old pensioner shot himself dead in the main public square in Athens today, Wednesday.
His final words were reported to be “I won’t leave debts for my children” before killing himself in Syntagma Square near to the Greek parliament.
He left a letter saying, “I have no other way to react but to find a dignified end before I start sifting through garbage for food.” He also called for young people to rise up.
The death has sparked outrage across Greece. Demonstrations are set to take place this evening in Athens and Salonica. Activists in London have called a demonstration outside the Greek embassy tomorrow, Thursday.
This is just the latest in a spate of suicides apparently linked to the austerity programme imposed on Greece. Socialist Worker photographer Guy Smallman witnessed just such a death in Athens last month.
“The bitter human cost of Greece’s austerity package became all too apparent when we visited Athens docks during the seafarers’ strike a fortnight ago,” Guy wrote.
“We heard a loud crash and shouting at the other end of the quay. On arrival we saw port police and strikers peering over the edge of the dock into the water. A man had committed suicide by driving his car into the water.
“The seafarers commented that such occurrences were all too common in the present climate—not least because Greek law allows debt to be annulled if the individual dies.
“The following day an expensive Mercedes was winched from the harbour. The man turned out to be a prestigious playwright and producer who had fallen on hard times.”
Panos Garganas is editor of Workers Solidarity, Socialist Worker’s sister paper in Greece. He spoke to Socialist Worker about how grinding austerity was ripping through the lives of pensioners.
“Pensions have been cut by around a quarter since the crisis first hit in 2008,” he said. “And the government has pledged to cut pensions further this summer. This is what causes the levels of desperation that have led to this latest suicide.
“People are forced to rely on their families if they can. There has been a huge increase in those turning to the churches for food. Even the United Nations now describes the situation in Greece as a humanitarian crisis.”
“Don’t let capitalism kill us!”—protest outside the Greek embassy in London, 6pm, Thursday 5 April, at Greek Embassy, 1A Holland Park, W11 3TP. There is also an event page on Facebook.