Sep 302016
 

By Michael Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

deborah1-300x281The transcript of Dialogos Radio’s interview with Déborah Berman-Santana, retired professor of geography and ethnic studies at Mills College in Oakland, California. This interview aired on our broadcasts for the week of September 15-21, 2016. Find the podcast of this interview here.

MN: Joining us today on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series is Déborah Berman-Santana, recently retired professor of Geography and Ethnic Studies at Mills College in Oakland, California. Deborah will speak to us about the latest economic and political developments in Puerto Rico, which is facing an economic crisis similar to that in Greece, and she will discuss the similarities that she has seen between Puerto Rico and Greece, after spending some time in Greece recently. Deborah, welcome to our program today.

DBS: Thank you!

MN: Getting us started, describe for us the history of the economic exploitation of Puerto Rico. What has the impact of colonialism been on Puerto Rico’s economic viability?

DBS: Colonies exist so that the colonizer will benefit economically and politically. Since the U.S. invaded and occupied Puerto Rico in 1898, it has extracted profit in numerous ways: First, through converting it into a sugar colony. After World War II Puerto Rico was transformed through “Operation Bootstrap” into a special economic zone to benefit U.S. corporations under the guise of “development via export-led industrialization.” As a captive market, Puerto Rico also became the home to the most WalMarts per square meter in the world. Finally, Puerto Rico’s colonial “neither U.S. state nor independent state” political status allowed the U.S. bond market to give special exemptions to investors, which has brought Puerto Rico to its current debt “crisis.”

During the 1930s, the anti-imperialist congressman Vito Marcantonio sponsored a study which revealed that since 1898, U.S. corporations had extracted as much as $400 billion in profits from Puerto Rico. Recently, independent researchers in Puerto Rico have estimated that since the 1950s, more than half a trillion dollars has been extracted from Puerto Rico. Both estimates encompass the free usage of Puerto Rican resources and the restriction, via U.S. cabotage laws, requiring all imports and exports to use U.S. merchant marine ships and U.S. crews. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the U.S. has taken more than a trillion dollars away from its colony, which certainly dwarfs Puerto Rico’s $73 billion public debt.

MN: We are speaking with professor Déborah Berman-Santana here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview series, and Déborah, how did this ongoing exploitation contribute to the present-day “debt crisis” in Puerto Rico, and what has been the role of Washington, Wall Street, and the so-called “vulture funds” in perpetuating this crisis?

DBS: With the eventual elimination of industrial tax incentives beginning in the 1990s, Puerto Rico’s governments increasingly looked to loans to balance its budget and continue practices of rewarding political cronies with contracts for large infrastructure projects. Subsequently, President Clinton’s elimination of the Glass-Steagall Act allowed for investment bankers to increasingly engage in bond market speculation. Puerto Rico received “triple exemption” because of its colonial status, which meant that every pension fund and every municipal and state government, among others, bought Puerto Rico bonds, ignoring the fact that its economy began shrinking once the special industrial exemptions were completely eliminated in 2006.

Election of a protege of the Koch Brothers, Luis Fortuño, as Puerto Rico’s governor in 2008 resulted in a “bitter medicine” law that eliminated tens of thousands of public jobs, which accelerated the descent of an economic recession into a depression. By 2011 the major credit agencies began degrading Puerto Rico’s ratings, with the result that it increasingly resorted to short-term, high interest loans similar to “payday loans.” Bondholders increasingly unloaded their Puerto Rico bonds in the secondary bond market, which were then swooped up by vulture funders such as Paul Singer and John Paulson – often at 10 to 20 percent of the bond’s value. Today, these vulture funders possess up to 50 percent of Puerto Rico’s public debt, and are the creditors who are least willing to renegotiate the terms of the loans. They have been the major lobbyists for the Congressional law known as “PROMESA” that recently became law.

MN: “PROMESA” been touted by some as a “bailout” for Puerto Rico. What does this bill actually mean for Puerto Rico, in your view, and what is the significance of the acronym that was used, “PROMESA”?

DBS: The new law, which President Obama signed on June 30, is entitled the “Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act” (PROMESA). In Puerto Rican popular parlance, a “promesa” is a pledge that someone makes when dealing with a family crisis. The person promises to do something for the community if the crisis is resolved. Often this is an annual fiesta, including traditional music, food and drink, and may last for decades. That the U.S. Congress would give this name to a law that strips away any pretense of self-governance, [it] has caused a tremendous amount of resentment in Puerto Rico.

This law allows President Obama to appoint a seven-member board — paid for by the Puerto Rican people — which will take control of the budget, eliminate environmental laws, dismiss public employees, abolish public agencies, cut the minimum wage by half for young workers, close schools and hospitals, increase utility bills, and cut pensions. These measures are justified by the priority of making payments on the public debt. There is no provision for economic development or restructuring of the public debt, let alone canceling it. There is no acknowledgment that such measures are likely to greatly increase emigration of working age Puerto Ricans while severely deteriorating quality of life for those who remain. Any “bailout” that might occur as a result seems directed only at the Wall Street vultures who now control most of the debt.
On August 31 President Obama announced the names of the members of the junta. Four were born in Puerto Rico. Two of those were in the government of former Puerto Rico governor Fortuño. One of them, Carlos “Caco” García (his nickname, used in Puerto Rico to refer to criminals) was directly involved in the “bitter medicine” law in 2009 that began massive layoffs of public employees, and was also responsible for billions of dollars of short maturity bonds that have now virtually bankrupted the government development bank. Were it not for such actions it’s possible that the “promesa law” would not have been exacted. Was he named to cover up the tracks of his patrons? Certainly, he was not chosen for fiscal responsibility. Among the other three junta members is Andrew Biggs, who is known for crusading in favor of privatizing Social Security and other public pension funds It is not difficult to imagine what role he will likely play in Puerto Rico.

MN: We are on the air with professor Déborah Berman-Santana here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview series, and Déborah, There’s a lot that has been written about the economic crisis in Puerto Rico recently, including a report by the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM), which has also written about the Greek debt in the past as well. What do you make of these reports, and were any Puerto Rican economists given the opportunity to provide their own input into these reports?

DBS: CADTM’s article was odd in that there did not appear to be any effort to read up or try to understand Puerto Rico, but simply to use information from Europe and change names where needed. For example, it referred to Puerto Rico as a member of the “Commonwealth of the United States,” an entity that does not exist (unlike, for example, the British Commonwealth). Puerto Rico is defined by the U.S. as a “territory belonging to, but not part of, the United States”, with not a single iota of sovereignty. A White House report on Puerto Rico in 2006 claimed that the U.S. could give Puerto Rico away to another country should it choose to do so. The term “commonwealth” is used for Puerto Rico to give the illusion that Puerto Rico achieved some form of self-governance in 1952, which resulted in the United Nations removing it from their list of colonies. There has been a movement to get Puerto Rico reinstated to that list for decades.

Another weakness of CADTM’s analysis was its use of secondary sources of statistics about Puerto Rico, such as the Pew Foundation, instead of Puerto Rico’s own government, or any of several Puerto Rican independent research institutes. Perhaps most egregious of all is that it does not mention the fact that, as a colony with no sovereignty, all of Puerto Rico’s public debt may be considered illegal. One might presume that an international organization dedicated to cancellation of debt would know that it was the successful insistence by the U.S. in 1898 that Cuba did not need to pay any of its debts because they were contracted by Spain, that helped shaped the concept of odious debt. I am not sure of the purpose of CADTM’s article — I hesitate to call it a “report” — other than to jump on the Puerto Rico misinformation bandwagon.

MN: In what ways has the colonial administration of Puerto Rico made the island economically dependent on the United States, and how does this dependency impact the national psyche of Puerto Ricans?

DBS: There used to be a geography book, written by a North American named Muller, which was the first textbook studied in all Puerto Rican schools. The first sentence read: “Puerto Rico is a small, overpopulated, poor island, lacking in natural resources, which cannot survive without the United States.” Puerto Rico has served as a laboratory for generations of U.S. academics, most of whom were awarded government and foundation grants to prove that Puerto Rico and its people were geologically, biologically, and socially inferior. Their claims were often absurd, such as that Puerto Ricans were afraid of the sea and that there [are] hardly any fish in the surrounding Caribbean — both of which could easily be disproved — or that somehow Puerto Rico’s rich soils could not feed the population, which was not the case until most arable land was diverted to sugar cane and later covered in cement for the industrialization strategy.

Puerto Ricans were constantly told to look to the U.S. for all sources of innovation and progress, and warned that independence would be economically and socially disastrous. A favorite slogan was, “Where would we be without her?” alongside the U.S, flag. Never mind that all of the disastrous economic and social consequences about which we were warned, have occurred precisely because of our colonial relationship to the U.S. You simply cannot extract the amount of profits from a country that the U.S. has taken from Puerto Rico, plus restrict our ability to protect our own resources or capital, and expect to have a positive economic result.

MN: We are speaking with professor Déborah Berman-Santana here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview series, and Déborah, describe for us the political system of Puerto Rico, the major political parties, and to what extent the island enjoys any degree of “self-governance.”

DBS: For the first 50 years after the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico, the president named a governor and most directors of government agencies. Since the establishment of the “Associated Free State” (commonwealth) in 1952, Puerto Rico has elected its own governor and legislature, as well as a non-voting representative to the U.S. Congress. Elections are held every four years. The two majority parties are the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP) and the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), which favors the current status with greater autonomy. The Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP), once the second-largest party, has been relegated by decades of political repression and extreme factionalism among pro-independence and left organizations to the status of a small party that barely manages to elect some representatives at municipal and island-wide levels. There is also a Puerto Rican court system, using only Spanish and based on Roman law, as is true of Latin American countries, which, however, is subordinate to the English-only U.S. federal court, located in the U.S. federal building in San Juan, a concrete reinforced stronghold that is the official seat of U.S. colonial rule.

The Puerto Rican government has not had the power to truly protect local businesses against product dumping from U.S. companies, nor to make economic treaties with other countries without U.S. approval. However, it has had control over its budget and taxes, which both majority parties have used to curry political favor with contractors and corporate sponsors. This has encouraged a culture of corruption, which would appear to confirm the dominant narrative, that Puerto Ricans lack the capacity to properly govern themselves. But at no time since 1898 has any Puerto Rican government been able to exercise sovereign decision-making against the wishes of Washington. That the so-called “commonwealth” did not change its status was confirmed by two rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court in June, one of which dealt with Puerto Rico’s exemption from use of Chapter 9 bankruptcy while at the same time nixing its government’s attempt to write its own bankruptcy law. Briefly, the Supreme Court affirmed that Puerto Rico lacked even the limited sovereignty that a U.S. Indian tribe might possess, and that Puerto Rico’s constitution had about as much validity as the Puerto Rican peso had after the U.S. takeover. In addition, President Obama said that “there is no alternative” to the PROMESA bill and the imposition of a junta, which of course means that Puerto Rico’s elected government, laws, and constitution mean nothing.

MN: What do you make of the summertime visit of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to Puerto Rico and what came out of this visit?

DBS: Sanders’ primary campaign strategy was to attract independents to vote for him in the primaries. Even though Puerto Ricans and other residents of U.S. colonies do not vote for president and have no voting representation in Congress, they do have delegates to the Democratic and Republican conventions and so usually hold primaries. By far the largest of the colonies in terms of population is Puerto Rico, and so Sanders’ strategy was to encourage independentistas — supporters of independence who do not vote in U.S. primaries — to vote for him. In his congressional career Sanders had never appeared to be aware of Puerto Rico’s existence, yet suddenly he was promoted as a “savior” who would decolonize Puerto Rico, all based upon his criticism of Wall Street and a supposed reputation as a “radical leftist.” Sanders never could bring himself to mention the “c” word — colony — when speaking about his country’s relationship with Puerto Rico. More than once he referred to Puerto Rico as a “protectorate,” and his harshest words accused Washington of using the PROMESA bill to “treat Puerto Rico as a colony” — without, of course, admitting that Puerto Rico already is a colony! Unfortunately, colonies foster colonized mentalities, so Sanders did manage to divide independentistas yet again, when what is most needed at this time is unity.

Sanders introduced an alternative bill to PROMESA in the Senate after PROMESA had already been approved by the House of Representatives and endorsed by Obama, so his bill did not even get a hearing. The proposed bill itself was a hodgepodge of measures that may have been marginally better in economic terms, but it also included a section on holding yet another referendum on political status — though at least five have already been held. It provided detailed instructions on how to fast-track statehood, should that option win, but nothing about U.S. responsibility for ensuring free determination and indemnification for eventual independence. I should also add that many U.S. politicians, from George Bush and Ted Kennedy to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, have made extravagant promises while campaigning for Puerto Rican delegates to their parties’ conventions. In sum, Sanders used Puerto Rico exactly as have other U.S. politicians before him.

MN: We are on the air with professor Déborah Berman-Santana here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview series, and Déborah, how is the issue of independence viewed in Puerto Rico today, and how has Washington typically responded to the independence movement?

DBS: There have been independence movements in Puerto Rico ever since the 19th century, when Spain was still the colonial power. Since the 1898 invasion, Washington has combined violent repression of independence groups with selective co-option of broad sectors of Puerto Rican society, using church officials and entrepreneurs, politicians and civil society leaders to divide Puerto Ricans against each other while promoting Uncle Sam as benefactor. Neighbors were paid to spy and report on every aspect of the lives of independence supporters, while many lost their jobs or were expelled from universities. Leaders were often arrested on a variety of charges, and many served long prison sentences. Not even leaving Puerto Rico for the diaspora exempted them from persecution. For example, Oscar López Rivera is currently imprisoned, having served 35 years of a 55-year sentence for “seditious conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government and its territories” — in other words, for struggling for Puerto Rican independence. Oscar grew up in Chicago, and has not been accused nor convicted of any violent act, yet his refusal to defend himself in a U.S. criminal court, and demand that he be tried as a political prisoner in an international tribunal helped lead to such a disproportionately long sentence. There is currently an international campaign to pressure President Obama to release Oscar from prison before the president leaves office. Many countries – including Greece – have held events in support, and important figures such as Bishop Desmond Tutu and Uruguay President Pepe Mujica have advocated directly for his release. In Puerto Rico support is massive and includes all political and social sectors.

Puerto Ricans as a whole do not support independence, at least not openly, because they have been taught that Puerto Rico has no choice but to be associated with the U.S., either as a state or in some kind of autonomous association. Yet every single environmental, social, political and cultural struggle and campaign has had independence supporters as key members. Puerto Rican pride and self-identification with a Puerto Rican nationality is much broader than open support for independence. It is obvious in sports, in music, in cultural celebrations, even in jokes and everyday life. Even many statehood supporters will often refer to Puerto Rico as their nation, as contradictory as that may sound to outsiders. Especially given the recent actions of the U.S. government — and the realization by many Puerto Ricans that Uncle Sam does not have their best interests in mind, it would be interesting to see if support for independence would increase, should a serious proposal include some indemnification by the U.S. for over a century of colonial rule.

MN: The “PROMESA” bill has triggered a wave of demonstrations in Puerto Rico all throughout the summer months, which are continuing up until now. How have these protests taken shape?

DBS: As soon as Obama signed the bill, a number of organizations set up a “civil disobedience encampment” in front of the main entrance to the federal building in San Juan. This is a very common feature of activism in Puerto Rico, as it serves as a semi-permanent focus for education, organizing, and resistance, and has been used to block environmentally dangerous projects as well as the U.S. Navy’s former bombing range on Vieques Island. The encampment has been continuously occupied since the end of June, and is a focus for seminars, cultural events, picketing, and “community building.” For now, the Puerto Rican police have said they do not plan to remove the protesters, although federal agents often conduct provocative actions, such as blasting diesel generators near the tents and walking bomb-sniffing dogs through the encampment.

On August 31 there were massive protests which successfully blocked a planned conference by the colonial Chamber of Commerce to promote business opportunities under “promesa.” It was very inspring to see union members, students, women’s groups, and others join together to resist the attempts of opportunists to profit from a dictatorial imposition. The most dramatic monent came when hundreds of riot police tried to force the protesters out of the street, but were pushed back by people of all ages despite batons, pepper spray, and brute force. Several days later protesters forced the largest Walmart in Puerto Rico to close early. This took place on “Labor Day” which was renamed “Unemployment Day” since Walmart has destroyed thousands of local businesses. (There are more Walmarts per square meter in Puerto Rico than anywhere else in the world; it receives incentives and went to federal court to validate its refusal to pay a reasonable amount of taxes in Puerto Rico.)

Other protests include a massive and broad-based movement against a plan by the U.S. government to use military planes to fumigate all of Puerto Rico with dangerous pesticides, supposedly to kill mosquitos carrying the Zika virus. To this are added a large number of ongoing protests and campaigns, all of which now refer to the coming junta de control as possibly complicating even more the scenario. Activists in the large Puerto Rican diaspora also hold seminars and stage protests, many times in coordination with the groups in Puerto Rico. Of course, most Puerto Ricans are not protesters, and [they] try to go about their daily lives while listening with alarm, resignation, or both to the news. Puerto Rican activist organizations face many challenges as they try to work through decades-long factionalism and develop more effective ways to educate the public. Most of all, the challenge is to not burn out, and convince others that there is hope!

MN: We are speaking with professor Déborah Berman-Santana here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview series, and Déborah, describe the difficulties in forming alliances in Puerto Rico today, within this fractured and divided political landscape that you have described.

DBS: Pro-independence organizations in Puerto Rico have always suffered from severe repression, including efforts by the colonizers — both Spain and the U.S. — to infiltrate and divide them. Some of the earliest campaigns by the FBI upon its establishment in 1908 included the criminalization and repression of independence activism in Puerto Rico, and such activities continue today. Recent examples include grabbing well-known activists in the street and forcing them to give DNA samples for supposed “ongoing terrorism investigations.” This operation included activists who had previously been imprisoned, and for whom the U.S. government would already have had DNA samples. This is just one example of a century-long campaign of repression that has included murders, disappearances, long incarceration, blacklisting, and spying. The Puerto Rican government has also been complicit in the criminalization of independence, including creating discord among activists and organizations.

However, we cannot simply blame outside forces for the divided state of independence and left activism. Besides the personal antagonisms — many of which are due to the same societal ills that afflict leftist organizations, such as sexism — there are also ideological disputes, such as the roles of nationalism and socialism in colonial struggles. One new political party, for example, declines to take a position on Puerto Rican political status even though most of its leaders have been identified as independentistas. They expect that by doing so they can attract pro-statehood workers to vote for them. I would argue that it would repel more statehood supporters, because they would be seen as dishonest. Of course, this divides the votes of those who no longer want to vote for the two majority parties. The Puerto Rican Independence Party is running a full slate of candidates and is trying to position itself as the alternative. But they have in the past been quite sectarian and have alienated many independentistas. Despite such divisions, we have seen many activities that include representatives of both parties, as well as other independence and left organizations. This indicates that many understand that somehow we need to overcome our divisions, if not our disagreements.

MN: Puerto Rico has often been described as the “Greece of the Caribbean.” You have had the opportunity to visit Greece twice in the past year, including this past summer. How similar are the crises in the two nations in your view?

DBS: I would say they are strikingly similar, and in fact that the same playbook is being used in both countries, despite the differences between them. For example, the acronym TINA, “There Is No Alternative” to continued policies of austerity, privatization, and increased taxes in order to pay off an unsustainable public debt, is constantly repeated, as is the myth that “There is no Plan B,” and that political independence for both (in Greece’s case, leaving the European Union and the eurozone) would be disastrous — as if U.S. and EU colonial rule is not already a disaster! In Greece there is a proposal for an eight-member junta de control fiscal named by the EU which must approve — and often even write — laws that the Greek government must implement, such as automatic budget cuts and further privatizations. While as a classic colony Puerto Rico cannot officially deal with the IMF, in practice the PROMESA bill follows the IMF playbook, as was prescribed by “former” IMF officials who were hired by the Puerto Rican government — as ordered by their masters in Washington — to produce a report with recommendations for dealing with the debt crisis. In addition, you see “vulture capitalists” such as Paul Singer and John Paulson swooping into both Greece and Puerto Rico to buy up assets such as banks and land, plus debt — at a discount. The fact that Puerto Rico is a classic colony actually makes the problems of lack of sovereignty much clearer. Greece is still officially an independent country, so for some people its de facto colonial status may not be quite as clear. Also, the problem of equating national sovereignty with fascism is particularly acute in Greece as a European country. In Puerto Rico we have some of that confusion, but it is not as strong since in general Latin Americans, including Puerto Ricans, understand the necessity for national sovereignty as part of anti-colonial struggles.

MN: We are on the air with professor Déborah Berman-Santana here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview series, and Déborah, in your estimation, what is the best solution for Puerto Rico and its people, economically and politically?

DBS: The international community recognizes the right of all peoples to self-determination, including freely and unilaterally choosing their political status. There are three recognized statuses: first, union with another independent state under conditions of equality; second, association with another state, with the right to unilaterally change its status; and independence. The U.S. has historically added new states whose native populations have been reduced to a small and powerless minority. The three Associated Republics of Micronesia complain of a lack of sovereignty and the unwillingness of the U.S. to renegotiate their compacts. There is zero interest in the U.S. to add a new state comprised of Spanish-speaking people with a distinctly different culture, and which additionally has a per capita income less than half of Mississippi, the poorest state in the Union. I believe that political independence represents the only possibility for Puerto Rico to exercise its sovereignty, and it should be accomplished — with international pressure — as part of a negotiation that includes indemnification for more than a century of colonial exploitation. Certainly, Puerto Rico’s colonial debt belongs to the colonizer. Far from seeing independence as “separation,” I would argue that it would actually open up Puerto Rico to the rest of the world, instead of being chained behind the iron curtain of U.S. rule. There is a saying in Latin America that its independence will not be complete without Puerto Rico, and I believe that time is now.

MN: Before wrapping up, do you have any message that you would like to share with our listeners and with the Greek people?

DBS: I would say that I appreciate the solidarity of the people in Greece, much solidarity and much understanding that they showed towards Puerto Rico that they showed during my visits there. I would encourage the people in Greece to not give up hope, and to not accept the notion that there is no alternative to the ongoing loss of sovereignty and the ongoing economic deterioration that you are facing. There’s always hope, but also, love of country is not necessarily fascist. I have to say that here in Puerto Rico as well, and basically, free people in free countries, individual freedom and freedom of people go together. I don’t think you can separate one from the other. I have much love for the people in Greece and for people in solidarity everywhere. Viva Puerto Rico libre!

MN: Well Déborah, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series, and for sharing with us your experiences from both Puerto Rico and Greece.

DBS: Thank you very much.

Sep 132016
 

By , 99GetSmart

Originally published at MintPressNews:

Rather than casting off the shackles of the EU, eurozone and IMF, the Syriza-led Greek government favors the ‘oligarchs’ it once vowed to tear down and doubles down on austerity measures, leaving Greek people to suffer through a modern colonial nightmare.

A man walks past street art depicting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens, Greece. Tsipras' decision to sign off on a bailout led to many in his left-wing Syriza party to quit in protest. An ensuing election in September saw Tsipras re-elected. His government has to meet a series of strict targets set by European creditors in order to get funds from the bailout, which are needed to prevent the country's bankruptcy and potential exit from the euro, Europe's single currency. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis, File)

A man walks past street art depicting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens, Greece. Tsipras’ decision to sign off on a bailout led to many in his left-wing Syriza party to quit in protest.

ATHENS — (Analysis) Stories of human suffering continue to multiply in present-day Greece, which is loosely governed by the “first time left” government of Syriza and more directly by the European institutions and the International Monetary Fund.

In the city of Patra, an elderly woman whose only source of income is her severely battered pension, from which she supports her two grandchildren, had her electricity service cut in the presence of a police SWAT team, despite her reliance on an oxygen concentrator to live. Her son was arrested for protesting the action and brought before a prosecutor.

Police in the city of Katerini, implementing the government’s crusade against purported “tax evaders” to the letter, arrested a father of three, whose spouse is unemployed, for selling pastries on the street without a license, fining him €5,000 ($5,627) for the infraction. The man is well-known in his community for donating his unsold pastries to local children and a local home for seniors at the end of each day.

I’ve also heard the story of an impoverished cancer patient in Thessaloniki, who, according to the eyes of the law, was another one of those lazy, corrupt Greeks guilty of dipping their hands too deeply into the public trough. Her meal card which allowed her to eat at a local soup kitchen was revoked, simply because she was concurrently receiving state aid for being a cancer patient.

On the island of Samos, a short distance from the Turkish coast, uniformed German police freely patrol the streets of the main town, Vathi, purportedly on the lookout for refugees, while German coast guard boats sit docked in the harbor. A few kilometers away, in the mountain village of Manolates, residents and shopkeepers listen to Turkish music on the radio—as no reception of Greek broadcasters was possible.

Finally, in my own neighborhood in Athens, 17 out of 22 storefronts lie vacant in a three-block stretch, “for rent” signs fading slowly from view. A once-beautiful park and playground lies vacant, entrances chained shut, while overgrown weeds cover this former piece of urban green space.

None of these stories are likely to make it into Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ forthcoming state of the union speech at the Thessaloniki Trade Fair. The prime minister is much more likely to tell us that unemployment has purportedly decreased, that Greece has emerged from recession (just as it supposedly did in 2014), that industrial production has dramatically increased, that the country is returning to economic growth, and that it is pursuing closer defense and military ties with the United States and NATO.

Syriza-led Greek state strips itself of sovereignty

Reality, however, is much more grim. In May, without parliamentary debate, the Syriza-led government passed a 7,500 page omnibus bill that transferred control over Greece’s public assets to a fund controlled by the European Stability Mechanism for the next 99 years.

These assets include airports, harbors, public beaches and coastline, and natural resources.

Earlier this year, 14 profitable regional airports were sold to the German publicly-owned corporation Fraport, while a majority stake in the port of Piraeus, one of the largest ports in Europe, was sold to Chinese-owned Cosco for €365 million—equal to 15 days’ worth of debt repayments—while its facilities alone are valued at more than €5 billion. The national railway, TRAINOSE, including all infrastructure and trains, was sold to Italy’s Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane for a mere €45 million, with the company’s debt was written off as part of the sale. The site of the former international airport of Athens, once slated to become Europe’s largest urban park, was sold to a consortium of investors from Greece, China, and the United Arab Emirates, led by the Latsis family of Greek shipping tycoons, who plan to construct luxury resorts and shopping malls on the site.

In May, Syriza’s cabinet presented plans to sell a 49-percent stake in the water utilities of Athens and Thessaloniki, plus 18 additional privatizations instead of the nine initially agreed to with creditors in the third memorandum. Prior to being elected in January 2015, Syriza promised to put an end to the privatization of public assets, and it vowed not to privatize water in its September 2015 platform.

Nevertheless, the Syriza government has committed to completing the privatization of numerous key assets, including the natural gas utility and the state’s stake in Athens’ Eleftherios Venizelos international airport, by November.

Also as part of the omnibus bill, the Greek parliament rendered itself voteless, as the legislation annuls the role of parliament to create a national budget or pass tax legislation. In earlier legislation, the government had agreed to submit all pending bills to the group of lenders known as the “troika” (European Commission, European Central Bank, and the IMF) for approval, reminiscent of the German Reichstag’s willful relinquishment of legislative power to then-Chancellor Adolf Hitler in 1933.

Taxes skyrocket and Greeks are unable to pay

Further illustrating just how much sovereignty has been stripped from the Greek state, the omnibus legislation also foresees the activation of automatic spending cuts, including salaries, without any parliamentary intervention if Greece fails to achieve targets for a primary surplus. In order to attain a primary surplus, spending has already been slashed dramatically, furthering the spiral of austerity Tsiprashad once promised to end with “one law and one article.”

Instead of austerity being abolished with one law and one article, Greek citizens have a new, crippling tax avalanche to look forward to beginning this autumn. On Aug. 29, this year’s unified property tax (ENFIA) was sent out to all property owners, with seven in ten businesses facing an increase this year. This is the same tax which members of the Syriza-Independent Greeks coalition government had denounced prior to being elected, claiming it was unconstitutional, promising to repeal it once in office, and instructing citizenson how to avoid paying it.

Once Syriza and the Independent Greeks came to power, however, payment of the ENFIA was described by the government as a “patriotic duty.”

Meanwhile, the Greek government is preparing to introduce a nationwide “asset registry” for taxation purposes, in which citizens will be obliged to declare not only their incomes and real estate, but everything from jewelry to family heirlooms, and even the amount of cash in their possession. This Orwellian measure will be supplemented by a national transaction registry, where essentially every bank transaction and purchase from each citizen will be tracked. Within five years, owners of homes and commercial buildings will be required to hire civil engineers to submit detailed blueprints and videos of their structures in order obtain a “structural identification” certificate—or risk steep fines or demolition.

These new taxes and measures are set to be enforced despite the growing inability of citizens and businesses to pay. The first half of 2016 saw a €1 billion shortfall in the collection of the value-added tax, while €272 million worth of income taxes for this year—about 25 percent of total expected revenue—remains unpaid. This is not due to a purported culture of “tax evasion,” but due to declining incomes and a general inability to pay.

Evidence of citizens’ inability to pay abounds. Deposits in Greece’s shattered banking system declined by €160 million in July alone. The number of employed people not being paid has reached 1 million, and 500,000 Greeks are paid less than €412 per month for their labor.

Eurostat figures from the fourth quarter of 2015 show that just 4.3 percent of the unemployed in Greece were able to find jobs. Greek families, who once took pride in passing property down from generation to generation, leading to the highest rate of homeownership in Europe, now find themselves rejecting inheritances from deceased relatives in record numbers, due to the tremendous tax burden.

Further fueling the oncoming storm, the Syriza government has committed to sweeping home foreclosures and auctions this autumn, while confiscations of funds from ever-dwindling bank accounts for unpaid debts to the state continue unabated. The government estimates it will collect over €2 billion from these confiscations by the end of the year.

In the meantime, the omnibus bill passed in May lowered the basic pension to a paltry €345-384 per month, while the value-added tax on many basic goods, including necessities like soap, was hiked to 24 percent. Following the initial slashing of basic pensions by up to 48 percent in June, aid for poor families and the disabled has been slashed almost in half beginning with this month’s payments.

Supplementary pensions for 150,000 recipients have been cut further, by as much as 38 percent, with further reductions slated for October. In response to the cuts, Giorgos Katrougalos, the labor minister who participated in the 2011 protests of the anti-austerity “indignants,” stated that the new system will “protect all Greeks from poverty,” adding that had pensions not been reduced, they would not be issued at all. Not convinced, pensioners have already begun to protest outside government ministries.

Meanwhile, the number of households which qualify for subsidized heating oil has been cut in half, the fuel and oil tax has once again been hiked, co-payments on prescription drugs covered by public insurance funds have been raised by 25 percent, while suffering small businesses have been further burdened by an increase in their tax rate from 26 percent to 29 percent. In a recent televised interview, Syriza MP Hara Kafantaristated that “the days where a shop owner was his own boss are over.” This perhaps helps explain why Greece’s burgeoning startup scene is being driven out amid Syriza’s excessive and unpredictable taxation.

Broadcasting licensing process rife with corruption

Syriza’s recent licensing bid for national television broadcasters is emblematic of its reign in office thus far. Diaploki is a Greek word which perfectly sums up the triangle of corruption and interplay between major political and business interests and the state. One of Syriza’s numerous pre-election pledges was to rout the “oligarchs” who control the media and much of the economy and put an end to this diaploki.

On Sept. 1, the Syriza-led government triumphantly claimed to have fulfilled this promise through the completion of the auctioning process for four licenses for national “general-interest” television stations. This announcement was accompanied by claims that “fairness” and “rule of law” had been “restored” after 27 years of “lawlessness” on the Greek airwaves (broadcasters have up until now been operating under a framework of provisional legality).

In Greece, the rabbit hole of diaploki runs deep—and this has not changed in the slightest during Syriza’s reign. The bidding process was both farcical and inhuman: The bidders were said to have been locked in isolated rooms in the headquarters of the Greek Secretariat for Press and Media, without any ability to communicate with each other or with the outside world for 70 hours, purportedly to ensure a “clean” bidding process.

In reality, though, the process was rife with illegalities, contradictions, inconsistencies, and absurdities, and it completely lacked transparency. It has also put six of Greece’s eight largest private television broadcasters in danger of being forced off the airwaves by the year’s end, including the top station in the ratings, Alpha TV.

Most significantly, perhaps, is the fact that the licensing process was conducted by the government itself, instead of by Greece’s independent licensing body for broadcasters, the National Commission for Radio-Television (NCRTV), which has remained defunct for most of the past year. This contradicts both the Greek constitution and European regulations which call for licensing processes to be conducted by independent bodies. The bid was based on the false premise that there were only enough frequencies available to license four national privately-owned broadcasters—two frequencies with two HD outlets each.

This claim is contradicted by the hundreds of digital stations broadcasting in Italian cities and the multiple HD channels per frequency on Britain’s Freeview service.

Further, while the government has repeatedly hinted that licenses for national “thematic” (special-interest stations) will be issued, it has not stated when this will happen, how many licenses will be issued, or through which process.

This immediately contradicts the government’s claim that, aside from technical reasons, the number of national general-interest licenses was limited to four due to the limited size of the Greek advertising market and the purported desire to ensure economically “viable” licensees.

How could bidders gauge their viability and bid accordingly, without knowing what the future marketplace will look like?

Adding to the confusion, upon completion of the licensing process, the government announced that it is pushing back the licensing process for “thematic” stations indefinitely and intends to instead focus next on the licensing of regional broadcasters through a similar process which would put most of Greece’s 100-plus regional stations at risk of being forced off the air. Already having been battered by the economic crisis, these regional stations would be unable to afford the steep cost of participating in the bidding process.

Following this, thematic licenses may be issued on a national basis, while similar licensing procedures for radio have been forewarned.

The licensing process also does not include any criteria whatsoever for the quality of programming, for balanced news presentation, or for public service programming. The only criterion which mattered was money, and with a limited amount of licenses being issued, the cost of each license was artificially driven upward, ensuring only the deepest of deep pockets–oligarchs, in other words–could participate.

It also ensured that should this licensing process be finalized and not legally struck down, Greece might just become the first country where fewer television stations will remain on the air in the digital era, instead of more.

Once out to fight the ‘oligarchs,’ Syriza’s given them TV stations instead

Syriza has repeatedly promised to “clean up” the airwaves and end diaploki. But just who are the oligarchs who successfully bid for licenses? Two of them, Giannis Alafouzos and Theodoros Kyriakou, own incumbent broadcasters Skai TV and Antenna TV, respectively. These two stations led the vociferous “pro-yes” media brigade prior to the July 2015 referendum.

Alafouzos, a shipowner, was found to be in possession of over €50 million in undeclared funds and had his assets frozen last month, pending an investigation for tax evasion. One of Skai’s main commentators, Bambis Papadimitriou, is notorious for having suggested that the previous conservative government of New Democracy could benefit from forming a coalition with a “serious” Golden Dawn, Greece’s far-right party.

Antenna TV, like Skai, is owned by a family of shipping and oil magnates. Antenna Group’s investments span multiple industries and over a dozen countries, while the station’s founder, Minos Kyriakou, has had his share of legal troubles in the past, including a jail sentence for illegal structures constructed in the resort region of Porto Heli (this sentence was later appealed down to a fine). Antenna, like Skai, also vehemently supported the pro-austerity “yes” vote in the 2015 referendum, likening the “yes” versus “no” option to a choice between being like Europe or “becoming Zimbabwe.”

The cases of the other two licensees, neither of whom are currently in possession of a television station, are even more egregious. One of the winning bidders is Vaggelis Marinakis, a shipping mogul and football magnate, who is facing at least five criminal investigations on charges ranging from match-fixing to directing a criminal organization.

Marinakis is also said to have been involved in the case of the “Noor 1,” a ship which Greek authorities found to be transporting 2.1 tons of heroin and which may be linked to Marinakis through close associates of his. Marinakis is a city councilman in Piraeus, while his right-hand man from the Olympiacos football club, Yannis Moralis, is mayor. Together, they exert control over the municipal radio station of Piraeus, Kanali 1. On Tuesday, prosecutors in Greece recommended that Marinakis be jailed pending trial on charges of match-fixing.

But perhaps the most flagrant case of all is that of Christos Kalogritsas, a former publisher-turned-construction magnate, and his son, Ioannis-Vladimiros Kalogritsas. Christos Kalogritsas’ construction firm, Toxotis S.A., is the recipient of numerous state contracts issued by the Syriza-led government for public works projects throughout Greece.

Toxotis S.A. recently purchased Medousa, a competing construction firm. It was formerly known as Tsipras ATE and owned by Pavlos Tsipras, father of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Christos Kalogritsas and his wife are currently facing civil and criminal charges for an alleged €51 million in unpaid taxes, while employees at Toxotis S.A. have previously gone on strike over six months of unpaid wages. The Kalogritsas family also owns significant shares in Attica Bank, one of the banks which has been repeatedly recapitalized by Greek taxpayers.

It is from Attica Bank that Ioannis-Vladimiros Kalogritsas provided a letter of guarantee worth €3 million in order to participate in the television licensing bid. This letter was submitted past the deadline set by the government for participation in the bid, but was nevertheless accepted.

Additionally, Christos Kalogritsas has close ties to current defense minister, Panos Kammenos; the current minister of infrastructure, transport and networks, Christos Spirtzis (whose ministry oversees public works projects and matters pertaining to broadcast frequency allocation); and celebrity television personality Nikos Evaggelatos. Kalogritsas is also said to maintain a “brotherly” friendship with current minister of state, Nikos Pappas, who oversaw the television licensing process. He is also a primary shareholder of polling firm GPO, one of the many Greek polling firms which receives state funding and which has repeatedly produced grossly inaccurate public opinion and exit poll results.

Further adding to the web of corruption, both Marinakis and the Kalogritsas family are represented by the attorney Giannis Mantzouranis. Mantzouranis also happened to represent the Greek state in the recent television licensing process. Clearly, conflicts of interest are not a concern for Syriza. In the late 1980s, Mantzouranis had been jailed as part of the wide-ranging Koskotas money-laundering scandal.

He is also one of the attorneys of investigative journalist-turned-Syriza cheerleader Kostas Vaxevanis, who through his involvement in the HellasNet network of regional television stations, stands to be one of the beneficiaries of any bid for regional TV licenses.

Diaploki is safe with Syriza in power

While Syriza is making triumphant claims of “restoring rule of law” in the television landscape, its own party-owned radio station, Sto Kokkino, went on the air illegally in 2005 after purchasing the frequency of a radio station that went unlicensed during a 2001 bid (when, again, there were claims that there was “no room” for more stations). The station in question, NRG 105.5 FM, which is under the same ownership as Athens’ Kiss FM, had illegally returned to the airwaves.

In 2006 and 2007, Sto Kokkino was shut down by authorities for broadcasting without a license, but the New Democracy government under Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis later passed a law which legalized party-owned broadcast stations, permitting them to operate without a license. Sto Kokkino was therefore “legalized.”

Meanwhile, Syriza continues to enforce a law passed by the previous conservative government which allows broadcast stations classified as “news” stations to switch classifications to “non-news,” but which does not provide the same privilege to “non-news” stations which wish to switch to news programming, thus creating a closed broadcast news marketplace. Sto Kokkino’s subsidiary stations throughout Greece violate this rule, but rather than changing the law and creating a level playing field, as Syriza is claiming to be doing now with the television licensing process, it keeps this blatantly undemocratic law as is and simply violates it for its own ends.

All of this has taken place while the NCRTV remains defunct, with no frequency table having been publicized for television stations, and with 1,000-2,000 employees in the television sector facing unemployment if their stations are forced to close. This would also create a restricted and highly centralized and controlled television market. Prime Minister Tsipras, in a recent speech celebrating the opening of a new stretch of highway (constructed by Toxotis S.A.), promised to turn over the €246 million in revenue from the licensing bid “to the poor.”

Of course, this assumes that money, which would be paid in three annual installments and only if the stations are profitable, is ever paid. Even so, EU officials have already stated that it will go toward Greece’scommitments to its lenders, not to the impoverished. They’ve also questioned  the licensing process itself.

Tsipras also omitted from his speech the loss of tax receipts and insurance fund contributions from the six stations slated to shut down, and the combined €700 million in debts they owe to Greek banks, which would likely go unpaid if they go off the air and be thrust upon the shoulders of Greek taxpayers instead via yet another recapitalization.

Make no mistake: Syriza’s “efforts” are not just contained to broadcast licensing. Syriza intends to create astate-run body to allocate advertising across media outlets, retaining a 30-percent commission for the state. Earlier in the year, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili announced the government’s intention to “restore order to the internet,” beginning with the creation of a registry of online news outlets and blogs. Registration was mandatory for all outlets which wished to be considered for state advertising expenditures—an easy way for any government to pay its way into the hearts of media owners.

Another way is through patronage, as in the case of Giorgos Christoforidis, publisher of the (once) anti-austerity newspaper To Xoni and former candidate for parliament with the Independent Greeks. Christoforidis was appointed to a post in the government’s press office while continuing to publish To Xoni.

Is it the new left or the old right? Who can tell?

In the meantime, the Syriza-led government continues to operate with stunning arrogance and insensitivity. Proclamations are made for the “record” number of tourists visiting Greece—even while most tourist resort towns lay idle during the tourist season. In Samos, patrolled by German police, there were not many refugees in sight—nor many tourists. The vice president of the Syriza government, Giannis Dragasakis, hasstated that it was a mistake for Syriza to have “demonized” the word “memorandum.”

Syriza MP Makis Balaouras recently claimed that “austerity is not in Syriza’s DNA.” Economist Rania Antonopoulou, who holds the ironic portfolio of “alternate minister for combating unemployment,” recently wrote in the Syriza-owned Avgi newspaper that “the third memorandum has strengthened Greece’s position.” Nikos Xydakis, the foreign minister, recently said that Greece has renounced much of its national sovereignty. In a “let ‘em eat cake” moment, Deputy Minister for Social Solidarity Theano Fotiou remarkedthat “stuffed peppers could feed an entire family.” The start of the football season has been postponed, purportedly to stamp out corruption stemming from the same “oligarchs” who received television licenses.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos has proposed the construction of a NATO base in the southern Aegean island of Karpathos, while German-owned Fraport is preparing to install a new €13 per passenger tax at the regional airports it now controls. Over the summer, the government proudly proclaimed the “loosening” of stifling capital controls—as the restriction on bank withdrawals was changed from a €420 weekly limit, to an €840 cap every two weeks. Do the math. Schools go without janitorial staffs, university restrooms without toilet paper.

All of this while there is nary a thought of departing the eurozone or following the example of British votersand waving goodbye to the EU. The signs were there about Syriza, its neoliberal tendencies, and the ensuing betrayal of its pre-election promises. Some warned about Syriza again, and again, and again, but those warnings fell on deaf ears.

Most of the world celebrated Syriza’s victory in January 2015, while “leftist” media outlets and commentators ranging from Democracy Now! to Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and others, have long forgotten about Greece or have excused away Syriza’s betrayal as simply the result of being “bullied” and “blackmailed” by the EU—which Greece must nevertheless remain a part of at “all costs.”

In this modern-day debt colony the “leftist” government has demonstrated an astonishing arrogance in not only violating its pre-election promises and July 2015 referendum result, and agreeing to a third—and the most onerous to date—austerity program, but also continuing to pretend that it is acting in a “leftist” and “progressive” manner.

All the while, it’s keeping Greece firmly shackled to the chains of the EU, eurozone, and IMF, while the Greek people seemingly have lost their pluck, devoid of any fight, resigned to their EU shackles.

 

michael-120x120ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Nevradakis  

Michael Nevradakis is a PhD candidate in media studies at University of Texas, Austin and a US Fulbright Scholar presently based in Athens, Greece.

Jul 072016
 

By Michael Nevradakis99GetSmart

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Dear friends of Dialogos Radio & Media,

While our radio programming is off the air during the summer months, our presence in the written press continues uninterrupted, with a series of new articles and interviews on Greece, Brexit, and more:

Life in a Modern Day Debt Colony: The Truth about Greece (99getsmart.com)

It’s time somebody told you the truth. The truth about Greece. A detailed piece highlighting the realities of life in a debt colony.

Before The Brexit: Greek Voters Said ‘No’ To Austerity Measures, Got More Austerity Measures (Mint Press News)

Our piece on the one year which has passed since the Greek referendum, the manner in which the referendum result was unclear but was nevertheless betrayed, and the differences with Britain’s recent referendum.

Beyond Racism & Xenophobia: Brexit Supporters Reject The EU’s Neoliberal, Anti-Democracy Empire (Mint Press News)

Our piece analyzing the real reasons behind “Brexit” and the true undemocratic nature of the European Union.

Greg Palast On US Election Fraud And Neoliberalism Gone Amok In Latin America And Greece (Truthout)

Our interviewwith investigative journalist and bestselling author Greg Palast, on Greece and the realities of austerity and the euro, on events unfolding in Latin America, and on election fraud in the United States.

Στα Ελληνικά, σας προωθούμε το πρόσφατο άρθρο μας για τις διαφορές ανάμεσα στο Ελληνικό δημοψήφισμα της 5ης Ιουλίου του 2015, και το πρόσφατο Βρετανικό δημοψήφισμα:

Η Διαφορά του Βρετανικού Δημοψηφίσματος με το Ελληνικό «Όχι»

Thanks – ευχαριστούμε,

Dialogos Radio & Media

Διάλογος Radio & Media

Jun 022016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

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Dear listeners and friends,

This week, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature an exclusive interview with bestselling author, filmmaker, investigative journalist, and economist Greg Palast, who will speak about his latest film project on election fraud in the United States, economic and political developments in Latin America, and on the latest set of austerity measures in Greece and the need for Greece to leave the Eurozone.

In addition, we will air our commentary of the week segment, plus some great Greek music. 

This is the season finale of Dialogos Radio. For more details and our full broadcast schedule, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6317 – where you can also find our podcasts, articles and written work, program archives, and online radio station Dialogos Radio 24/7.

Best,

Dialogos Radio & Media

 
************************
 
Αγαπητοί ακροατές και φίλοι,
 
Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο «Διάλογος», αποκλειστική συνέντευξη με τον συγγραφέα, ερευνητικό δημοσιογράφο, και οικονομολόγο Greg Palast, ο οποίος θα μας μιλήσει για την νοθεία των εκλογών στις ΗΠΑ, τις πολιτικές και οικονομικές εξελίξεις στην Λατινική Αμερική, για τα νέα μέτρα λιτότητας που έχουν εφαρμοστεί στην Ελλάδα, και για τους λόγους γιατί πιστεύει ότι η Ελλάδα πρέπει να αποχωρήσει άμεσα από την Ευρωζώνη.
 
Επίσης, ο Palast θα μιλήσει για το καινούριο του βιβλίο, “Πικνίκ για Γύπες,” που έχει κυκλοφορήσει στην Ελλάδα με Ελληνική μετάφραση, και όπου γράφει, μεταξύ άλλων, για τον ρόλο των μεγάλων τραπεζών και των αρπακτικών fund στην δημιουργία της οικονομικής κρίσης στην Ελλάδα
 
Θα μεταδώσουμε επίσης τον καθιερωμένο μας σχολιασμό της επικαιρότητας. Αυτή θα είναι η τελευταία εκπομπή της ραδιοφωνικής σεζόν 2015-2016.
 
Συντονιστείτε ΣΗΜΕΡΑ και όλη την εβδομάδα στο παγκόσμιο δίκτυο μας. Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες, μπείτε στο http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6319. Στην ιστοσελίδα μας μπορείτε επίσης να βρείτε το αρχείο εκπομπών και συνεντεύξεων μας, την αρθρογραφία μας, και το διαδικτυακό μας ραδιόφωνο Διάλογος Radio 24/7.
 
Φιλικά,
Διάλογος Radio & Media
May 312016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis99GetSmart

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Greece’s supposedly “leftist” government of so-called “hope” and “change” did it again! It saved Greece once more! Greece can continue living the European nightmare…excuse me, dream, can remain part of the vaunted “European family” and the Eurozone, and the government once again successfully completed “tough” negotiations with its so-called European “Partners,” with a capital P, as Greece’s deferential journalistic class tends to refer to them.

Let’s take a look at this new “success story” of Greece’s government of “hope” and “change.” It is a success story so big that Greece’s already insane value-added tax of 23% will be bumped up to 24% on June 1st. It is a success story so great that the unified property tax which SYRIZA, at one time, called unconstitutional and illegal and which at one time was said to be “temporary,” will now be raised and made permanent. It is a success story so tremendous that Greece’s already paltry pension and social security payments will be slashed further, despite government lies and propaganda to the contrary. Home foreclosures and auctions will resume, without anything but the flimsiest of temporary protections for the poorest homeowners. These foreclosures and auctions will take place electronically instead of in a courthouse, under cover of darkness and without warning. In the meantime, new privatizations are coming, alongside the development of a new super-fund of sorts which will manage essentially all of Greece’s publicly-owned assets and prepare them to be sold off, at bargain basement prices. And unlike most of the people of Greece, the foreign investors who will be snatching up these assets know very well how valuable a land Greece is.

Of course, all of these privatizations, foreclosures, auctions, as well as the bundling and selling of both prime and subprime loans—where have we heard that before?–will be permitted without any transfer tax or any other taxes being levied. Because when we talk about tax evasion, we are supposed to only talk about the “bad,” “lazy,” “spendthrift” Greeks, but never the “good,” “civilized” foreign saviors in suits. And of course, this was agreed to following those aforementioned “tough” negotiations between the Greek government of “hope” and “change” and the lenders. This result had also been predicted, months in advance, by economist, analyst, and member of Greece’s United Popular Front Dimitris Karousos, but was of course ignored by the international media and of course by the trashy, biased English-language editions of Greece’s media outlets.

So what if people’s homes are foreclosed and thousands of households are thrown out onto the streets? So what if heating oil and gas, already insanely taxed, are taxed some more, along with basic goods and staples through direct and indirect taxation? Who cares if the self-employed and small- and mid-sized businesses will be absolutely slaughtered as a result of these new measures that were voted into law and the avalanche of taxes that they will face? Who cares if there is now zero chance of the minimum wage to be restored to the still-low pre-crisis levels, which at one time the SYRIZA government of supposed “hope” and “change” had promised? And of course, all of this does not even take into account the automatic cuts that will be implemented if Greece does not meet the strict fiscal targets imposed by its so-called saviors. Who cares about all of this? We are talking about a success story here! Of course, though, it’s a success story for the lenders—but not for Greece or for the Greek people. But, the European dream is what everyone wanted, right? So here it is, enjoy it!

And since we are talking about what is surely such a huge, unprecedented success, that must explain why the otherwise “revolutionary” and “radical” and “non gullible” and oh so clever Greek people did not take to the streets. After all, Greece remained in Europe, remained in the Euro, people still have cheese from Holland for their sandwiches (if they can afford the 24% tax, that is), so everything is A-OK, right? That must explain why Greece’s notaries called off their strike protesting the new insurance and pension bill, as soon as that very bill was passed, allowing home foreclosures and auctions to resume. That must also explain why Greece’s lawyers, with their own protracted strike, have inconvenienced ordinary Greek people whose cases have, in some cases, been postponed for years—instead of using their legal knowledge to mobilize the population and protest austerity both old and new.

Ah, but I forgot. We had the usual round of stale, old 3 and 4 and 24 hour so-called “work stoppages,” which of course left enough time for Greece’s “labor leaders”–quotations absolutely necessary—to hit up their favorite tavernas to wine and dine. Work stoppages which have been going on for decades and decades and which not once have made the slightest bit of impact other than inconveniencing people’s lives, which might very well be their real objective, instead of any actual change. For instance, we had the workers on the Athens Metro declare a work stoppage beginning at 9 pm on the night the new measures were to be voted into law. This was enough to discourage many people from coming out to protest, not knowing if they’d have a way to return home. With a low turnout of protesters assured, the work stoppage was then lifted at the last minute, just in time for the usual mass exodus from Syntagma Square once the usual dog-and-pony show between the paid agent provocateurs and the riot police which SYRIZA was at one time going to abolish, was underway.

We of course also had the journalists’ strike as well, which of course just coincidentally happened to fall in the days of final debate before the new measures were to be voted upon by Parliament. Of course, the truth here is that even if there was no strike, there would still have been no actual journalism taking place from these so-called journalists and the media outlets they work for. But just try explaining that to grandma and grandpa in the village and to Greece’s suburban neoliberal class, who still actually think they are being informed by the newscasts that they watch.

All of this is okay though, because there is hope! There is light at the end of the tunnel! We have the “savior” Yanis Varoufakis with his stylish pink t-shirts and his so-called “guerilla interviews,” that is, when he isn’t making “spontaneous” (quotations again necessary) appearances at the protests taking place in France or signing autographs in Spain. The same “heroic” Varoufakis who said that the Greek debt would be repaid in perpetuity, who pillaged the Greek public sector’s cash reserves to pay that debt to the IMF, who imposed capital controls, and who agreed to more austerity and who voted for Greece’s corrupt pro-austerity president Prokopis Pavlopoulos. This same “heroic” Varoufakis is now touting the catastrophic idea of a parallel or dual currency system for Greece as a “solution” while millions of minions lap up his every word. He is joined by the “heroic” Zoe Konstantopoulou, who also knew how to vote “yes to everything” when she was part of the SYRIZA government last year and who continued publicly supporting the government even after it sold out the referendum result of July 5th. She, too, is touting the catastrophic parallel or dual currency solution for Greece, as are fascists such as the far-right Giorgos Karatzaferis and “Sir” (quotations necessary once more) Basil Markezinis, son of a junta prime minister, both of whom have been resurrected from the political graveyard recently.

So since Greece has been saved, has remained in Europe and the vaunted Eurozone, and since there are even more “saviors” in the pipeline who will continue to save Greece well into the future, why bother protesting? The couch is nice and comfortable, is it not? And it’s easier to let the television do the thinking for you, lest you hurt your head. The same television which includes public broadcaster ERT, which is now paying private, oligarch-owned network provider DIGEA to transmit its signal digitally. A company owned by the same oligarchs that the oh so leftist SYRIZA government claims it is going to take down. The same government which will supposedly take down these oligarchs by auctioning off a limited number of television licenses to the highest bidder and the deepest pockets, while Greece’s smaller, independent local television stations are dying off, unable to afford to pay DIGEA exorbitant amounts to carry their signal. This is the same government which, unconstitutionally and in violation of European law, has shut down Greece’s National Radio-Television Committee, leaving the broadcasting landscape entirely unregulated. This is the government which claims it is restoring order to the airwaves, and there are still people who slurp up this propaganda.

Of course, television in Greece knows all about telling people horror stories from countries like Venezuela while telling people that the so-called “leftist” Alexis Tsipras wants to turn Greece just like Venezuela. What they won’t say, of course, is that Venezuela is the victim of both international economic warfare through the sharp decline in oil prices, as well as a victim of its own domestic oligarchs and cartels, who are hoarding goods to create severe market shortages in order to undermine the country’s government. What the media in Greece are also not saying is that many of these horror stories also exist in Greece today as well, in a country that is supposedly being “bailed out” and “saved” day after day by its so-called European friends and partners. What these media outlets in Greece know how to say is that Portugal, Ireland, and Cyprus are supposed “success stories” for concluding their own memorandum agreements. What is not said is that the end of the memorandum agreements has not meant the end of harsh austerity, the end of record numbers of home foreclosures and evictions, or the end of mass migration out of these countries.

And while all of this is happening, I hear many in Greece moaning and groaning about why we can’t be more like the French, who we are told are out on the streets in massive numbers to protest their own anti-labor bills. However, few people, if any, think to ask…how were these supposedly spontaneous demonstrations actually organized, with blogs and websites and hashtags and public assemblies? We saw the savior of not just Greece but apparently the whole world Yanis Varoufakis speak to the protesters in France. Who invited him? Who assured his security? Who paid for his travel and lodging? How did this speech get organized in the first place, logistically and otherwise? And how did these supposedly spontaneous demonstrations spontaneously, as we are supposed to believe, spread to 55 cities in Greece and dozens more in Europe, all on the same day and at the same time? Are we supposed to believe that after such a long period of inactivity and hibernation that everyone suddenly decided that they had enough? And in the meantime, what people in Greece are blissfully unaware of is that while they are whining about their own inactivity, the rest of the world mistakenly believes that it the Greeks who are the ones fighting back, while they are the ones staying inactive! Doesn’t anybody have even the slightest curiosity as to how these perceptions are developed and maintained, and by who?

The answer is that no, most people do not question such things. Instead, in Greece, they run off to again vote for criminals and professional liars like those in SYRIZA, while others, through their abstention from the polls, essentially legitimize the victors in this electoral process instead of giving their votes to the dozens of smaller parties and movements which are struggling to exist. Those same people might participate in yet another lame 3 or 4 hour work stoppage, or by maybe taking a walk down to the center of Athens to “protest” by standing around and drinking beer, before running home to catch Greece’s talking heads on TV again. That’s Greece and that’s the majority of the Greek populace today.

May 192016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

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Dear listeners and friends,

This week, Dialogos Radio returns after a brief hiatus! On our broadcast this week, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature a timely and relevant interview with Nikos Chatziandreou of the Acropolis of Athens online campaign, for the return of the Acropolis Sculptures from the British Museum in London, to Greece.

In this week’s interview, Chatziandreou will talk about the sculptures and their historic and cultural significance, about the efforts that are taking place to secure their return and the various legal and diplomatic issues that are involved, and about his online campaign and petition calling for the sculptures’ return to Greece.

In addition, we will feature our commentary of the week segment, plus some great Greek music! All this and more, this week exclusively on Dialogos Radio!

For more details, our full broadcast schedule, our podcasts and show archives, and our online radio station Dialogos Radio 24/7, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6288.

Best,

Dialogos Radio & Media

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Αγαπητοί ακροατές και φίλοι,

Αυτή την εβδομάδα, ο «Διάλογος» επανέρχεται με νέες μεταδόσεις ύστερα από ένα μικρό διάλειμμα, παρουσιάζοντας μια ενδιαφέρουσα και επίκαιρη συνέντευξη με το Νίκο Χατζηανδρέου από την διαδικτυακή καμπάνια «Acropolis of Athens», που διεκδικεί την επιστροφή των γλυπτών της Ακρόπολης από το Βρετανικό Μουσείο του Λονδίνου, στην Ελλάδα.

Στην συνέντευξη μας, ο κ. Χατζηανδρέου θα μας μιλήσει για την καμπάνια που ξεκίνησε, για την πολιτισμική και αρχαιολογική σημασία των γλυπτών, για τις κινήσεις που γίνονται σήμερα σε νομικό και διπλωματικό επίπεδο, για τα επιχειρήματα της Ελληνικής πλευράς και των Βρετανών, και για το νομικό καθεστώς των γλυπτών και άλλων παρόμοιων υποθέσεων.

Επίσης αυτή την εβδομάδα θα παρουσιάσουμε τον σχολιασμό μας για την τρέχουσα επικαιρότητα. Όλα αυτά και πολλά άλλα, αυτή την εβδομάδα αποκλειστικά στο «Διάλογος»!

Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες, το πρόγραμμα μεταδόσεων μας, το αρχείο εκπομπών και συνεντεύξεων μας, και το διαδικτυακό ραδιόφωνο Διάλογος Radio 24/7, μπείτε στο http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6278.

Φιλικά,

Διάλογος Radio & Media

Apr 142016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

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Dear listeners and friends,
Dimitris Kazakis

Dimitris Kazakis

This week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature an interview with the economist and General Secretary of Greece’s United Popular Front (EPAM) Dimitris Kazakis, who will speak to us about the latest economic and political developments in Greece, EPAM’s proposals for a Eurozone and EU departure for Greece, and about the ongoing refugee and migrant crisis. 

Also this week, we will feature our commentary of the week segment, discussing current events in Greece and the apathy of much of the Greek population.
 
Tune in for all this and more, this week on Dialogos Radio. For our full weekly broadcast schedule, more information about this week’s broadcast, plus our podcast, on-demand program archive, articles and written work, and our online radio station Dialogos Radio 24/7, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6191.
 
Best,
Dialogos Radio & Media

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Αγαπητοί ακροατές και φίλοι,
 
Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο «Διάλογος», παρουσιάζουμε συνέντευξη με τον οικονομολόγο και Γενικό Γραμματέα του Ενιαίου Παλλαϊκού Μετώπου (Ε.ΠΑ.Μ.) Δημήτρη Καζάκη, ο οποίος θα μας μιλήσει για τα τρέχουσα οικονομικά και πολιτικά δρώμενα της χώρας, την πρόταση του Ε.ΠΑ.Μ. για έξοδο από την Ευρωζώνη και την Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση, και για το προσφυγικό-μεταναστευτικό ζήτημα. 
 
Επίσης θα παρουσιάσουμε τον καθιερωμένο μας σχολιασμό, όπου θα μιλήσουμε για την τρέχουσα επικαιρότητα στην Ελλάδα και την αδράνεια του Ελληνικού πληθυσμού.
 
Για το πλήρες πρόγραμμα μεταδόσεων της εκπομπής και για περισσότερες πληροφορίες, αλλά και για το αρχείο εκπομπών και συνεντεύξεων μας, την αρθρογραφία μας, και το διαδικτυακό μας ραδιόφωνο Διάλογος Radio 24/7, μπείτε στο http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6189.
 
Φιλικά,
Διάλογος Radio & Media
Mar 302016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis99GetSmart

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Dear listeners and friends,

UnknownThis week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature an interview with Despina Kreatsoulas of the Politismos Museum, an online museum of Greek history and culture. Kreatsoulas will speak to us about the idea behind creating an online museum, about the museum’s features and exhibits, and the future plans of the museum. 

Also this week, we will feature our commentary of the weeksegment, discussing issues pertaining to freedom and independence.

All this and more, this week exclusively on Dialogos Radio! For more details, the full Dialogos Radio broadcast schedule, our podcast, our on-demand archives, our articles and written work, and our online radio station Dialogos Radio 24/7, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6154.

Best,
Dialogos Radio & Media
 
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Αγαπητοί ακροατές και φίλοι,
 
Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο «Διάλογος», παρουσιάζουμε συνέντευξη με τον Θάνο Χίνη, από το διαδικτυακό μουσείο «Πολιτισμός». Θα μας μιλήσει για το μουσείο και για την ιδέα ίδρυσης ενός μουσείου στο διαδίκτυο, για τα εκθέματα που παρουσιάζονται και που ενδέχεται να παρουσιαστούν, και για τα μελλοντικά σχέδια του μουσείου. 
 
Επίσης θα παρουσιάσουμε τον καθιερωμένο μας σχολιασμό, όπου θα μιλήσουμε για θέματα που αφορούν την ελευθερία, την ανεξαρτησία, και την εθνική κυριαρχία.
 
Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες σχετικά με την μετάδοση, το πρόγραμμα μεταδόσεων, το podcast μας, το αρχείο εκπομπών μας, την αρθρογραφία μας, και το διαδικτυακό μας ραδιόφωνο Διάλογος Radio 24/7, μπείτε στο http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6158.
 
Φιλικά,
Διάλογος Radio & Media
Mar 172016
 

By Mihalis Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

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Dear listeners and friends, 

antti1-1-300x170This week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature a highly interesting and exclusive interview with Antti Pesonen of the Independence Party of Finland. The Independence Party advocates the departure of Finland from the Eurozone and from the European Union and is against Finland joining NATO, and in this week’s interview, Pesonen will discuss the party, its history and its platform, the dire impacts of Eurozone and European Union membership for Finland, the economic crisis that is now impacting the country, the network of European political parties and movements which are against the European Union and the euro, and about other current issues facing Greece and Europe.
 
Also this week, we will feature our commentary of the weeksegment, where we will discuss Zoe Konstantopoulou and her forthcoming political movement. All this, plus some great Greek music, this week only on Dialogos Radio!
 
For more information, our full broadcast schedule, plus our podcasts, archives, articles and written work, Dialogos Radio 24/7 and more, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6102.
 
Best,
Dialogos Radio & Media
 
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Αγαπητοί ακροατές και φίλοι,
 
Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο «Διάλογος», παρουσιάζουμε μια εξαιρετικά ενδιαφέρουσα και αποκλειστική συνέντευξη με τον Άντι Πεσονέν, πρώην επικεφαλής του Φινλανδικού Κόμματος της Ανεξαρτησίας. Το Κόμμα της Ανεξαρτησίας υποστηρίζει την έξοδο της Φινλανδίας από την Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση και την Ευρωζώνη και είναι αντίθετο στην ένταξη της χώρας στο ΝΑΤΟ, και στην συνέντευξη που θα παρουσιάσουμε, ο κ. Πεσονέν θα μας μιλήσει για το κόμμα, για το πως ιδρύθηκε και για τις θέσεις του, για τις δυσμενείς επιπτώσεις από την συμμετοχή της Φινλανδίας στην Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση και στην Ευρωζώνη, για την οικονομική κρίση που πλήττει πλέον την χώρα, για το δίκτυο Ευρωπαϊκών κινημάτων που είναι εναντίων του ευρώ και της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης, και για την τρέχουσα επικαιρότητα στην Ελλάδα και την Ευρώπη.
 
Επίσης αυτή την εβδομάδα θα παρουσιάσουμε τον καθιερωμένο μας σχολιασμό, όπου θα μιλήσουμε για την Ζωή Κωνσταντοπούλου και το επερχόμενο πολιτικό σχήμα της. Όλα αυτά και πολλά άλλα, αυτή την εβδομάδα αποκλειστικά στο «Διάλογος»!
 
Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες, το πλήρες πρόγραμμα μεταδόσεων μας, το αρχείο εκπομπών και συνεντεύξεων μας, την αρθρογραφία μας, και το διαδικτυακό μας ραδιόφωνο Διάλογος Radio 24/7, μπείτε στο http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=6097.
 
Φιλικά,
Διάλογος Radio & Media