Greek Pensioner Kills Himself In Main Athens Square

77 year old greek suicideBy Nicholas Paphitis


ATHENS, Greece -- A Greek retiree shot himself dead in the busiest public square in Athens during morning rush hour Wednesday, leaving a note police said linked his suicide with the country's acute financial woes.

Hours later, more than 1,500 anti-austerity protesters gathered in the square, responding to social media calls for peaceful demonstrations accusing Greek politicians of driving people to despair with harsh cutbacks implemented to secure vital international bailouts.

Limited scuffles broke out between the protesters and riot police, who used a small amount of pepper spray to repel youths throwing bottles of water at them.

The 77-year-old retired pharmacist drew a handgun and shot himself in the head near a subway exit on central Syntagma Square which was crowded with commuters, police said. The square, opposite Greece's Parliament, is a focal point for public protests.

The incident jolted public opinion and quickly entered political debate, with the prime minister and the heads of both parties backing Greece's governing coalition expressing sorrow.

"A pharmacist ought to be able to live comfortably on his pension," said Vassilis Papadopoulos, a spokesman for the "I won't pay" group. "So for him to reach the point of suicide out of economic hardship means a lot. It shows how the social fabric is unraveling."

Greece has relied on international rescue loans since May 2010. To secure them, Athens implemented harsh austerity measures, slashing pensions and salaries while repeatedly raising taxes. But the belt-tightening worsened the recession and led to thousands of job losses that left one in five Greeks unemployed.

"As a Greek, I am truly shocked," Dimitris Giannopoulos, an Athens doctor, said before the protest. "I am shocked because I see that (the government is) destroying my dignity ... and the only thing they care about are bank accounts."

Police said a handwritten note was found on the retired pharmacist's body in which he attributed his decision to the debt crisis.

According to a text of the note published by local media, the man said the government had made it impossible for him to survive on the pension he had paid into for 35 years. "I find no other solution than a dignified end before I start searching through the trash for food," read the note. Police did not confirm whether it was genuine.

Greece has seen an increase in suicides over the past two years of economic hardship, during which the country repeatedly teetered on the brink of bankruptcy.

Police did not release the pharmacist's name and offered few other details.

By Wednesday evening, dozens of written messages had been pinned to the tree under which the man shot himself, some reading: "It was a murder, not a suicide," and "Austerity kills."

Hundreds of protesters made their way across the street from the square to outside Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, chanting: "This was not a suicide, it was a state-perpetrated murder" and "Blood flows and seeks revenge."

Dozens of riot police stood guard.

Papadopoulos, the protest organizer, said the suicide shows Greeks can take no more austerity.

"This suicide is political in nature and heavy in symbolism. It's not like a suicide at home," Papadopoulos said in a telephone interview. "There was a political suicide note, and it happened in front of a clearly political site, Parliament, where the austerity measures are approved."

Prime Minister Loucas Papademos issued a statement as protesters gathered at the site of the suicide.

"It is tragic for one of our fellow citizens to end his life," he said. "In these difficult hours for our society we must all - the state and the citizens - support the people among us who are desperate."

Government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis described the incident as "a human tragedy," but said it should not become part of the political debate.

"I don't know the exact circumstances that led that man to his act," Kapsis said. "I believe we must all remain calm and show respect for the true events, which we do not yet fully know."

Evangelos Venizelos, leader of the Socialist party, said the suicide "is so overwhelming that it renders any political comment unbecoming and cheap."

"Let us reflect on the condition of the country and of our society in terms of solidarity and cohesion," said Venizelos, who served as finance minister for eight months before resigning to lead the Socialists.

Conservative party head Antonis Samaras said the tragedy highlighted the urgency of getting Greece out of the crisis.

"Unfortunately, this is not the first (suicide)," he said. "They have reached record levels."



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Greek Clashes Over Pensioner Suicide

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Nino Capone

I think that it is a tragedy; being that things could of been prevented and should have not ended in such a tragic way. Those that intertwined for such scenerios to become should be ashamed and repent, it is really sad, moving and disturbing. How those in place have upheld posture to those suppressing.

April 06 2012 at 3:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mistysurvysopn

When times like these get bleek for someone, and they see no way out of the mess, except by taking ones life. I mean really, here's a guy that probably worked most of those 77 and paid into the system for 35 of those years, so it probably was a good pension, but alas.., the government knew this, knew to keep an eye on the man. Who does it go to now that it gone? his boys? his wife? back to the government? Lets hope not!

April 06 2012 at 1:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
barney

OPA Our Pensions Abominable

April 05 2012 at 11:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mccalteaux

In Greece you are entitled to a Government pension at age 51, the normal retirement age,if I am not mistaken at 75% of pre-retirement earnings. They've been living too well for too long!

April 05 2012 at 11:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
demetlaw

it's embarrasing to be an american and read the uninformed drivel that passes as comment from ignorant asses; if you could actually read or viewed something more than the ass-clowns on Faux news, you'd grasp that this was a 77 year old retiree, a pharmicist, who for at least a decade had been living on a pension; which unlike those in the US or any other western country have been cut retroactively by 20%; even our wing-nut Tea baggers scream keep your government hands off my medicare and SSA (as if it was private and unsubsidized); and even the meat-ax Ryan assault on entitlements doesnt call for immediate (and surely not retroactive) application; imagine the riots in the US if congress passed and the president signed a 20% cut in wages nationally and a 20% cut in Social Security; it would make the riots of the 80's look like a BBQ

April 05 2012 at 11:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to demetlaw's comment
bwanabedar

When one is forced to contribute(read taxed) to a fund for forty years one may expect not to have reductions in the promised payouts of said fund. This is not, therefore, a government subsidy but a governmental fraud if the payout is in fact reduced. You may dismiss those who would like their government to honor its promises as "tea baggers" , as we dismiss those without honor as democrats. The Greeks might have more of a leg to stand on if they did not habitually fail to pay their taxes.Much like democrats in this country they don't seem to understand that if a government continues to spend what it does not have it goes brokes

April 05 2012 at 11:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bpeter3196

Well greeks have one less mouth to feed so it seems things are looking up for them. Maybe if enough do it the rest can go back to living as spoiled brats and spending more money they they have. Tough but true. If i over spent my income let alone income like pension before I even had it i would only have myself to blame & that's the way it is in life & reality why is everyone stuck with their heads in the sand thinking this is a movie or video game & that you get to save your game before you do something crazy so when it fails you can reload it & try again. You expect banks to pay their share yet think its ok for you not to even though your payment is paid by the bank using someone else's payment & your payment will pay someone else's. This isn't the movies there is no do over & life is not full of happy & endings & lucky breaks. It sucks but welcome to reality.

April 05 2012 at 10:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Richard

Greese will survive and snap out of their funk. With a history and spirit like theirs this bump in the road will not discourage the masses, Prayers to the poor man and his family.

April 05 2012 at 7:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dtucker2009

lol love it

April 05 2012 at 7:18 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dtucker2009's comment
Gregster

Feel free to follow his example.

April 05 2012 at 7:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Gregster's comment
bpeter3196

you first gregster. Obviously the guy spent more then he made especially from his super high pension & thus cuts to that pension or others would have made paying the minium to stay a float even harder & thus the cork was set to unravel.

April 05 2012 at 9:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
bpeter3196

I even rated myself down before you could just for being honest & speaking the truth. Sad but true.

April 05 2012 at 10:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
ctowns1024

When you cant stand economic reality and adhrere to peter pan principles, where you believe you can print your way to utopia, which always fails, you then have a way to save the failed welfare state money, kill yourself.

April 05 2012 at 7:10 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
medal819

one man once said "government is not the answer to the problem, government is the problem". still true today.

April 05 2012 at 7:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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