Cuts and Austerity: Pensioner shoots himself dead in public; refused to ‘search for food in garbage’

Published: 04 April, 2012, 15:10


Mourners stand around the spot where a man committed suicide at central Syntagma square in Athens (Reuters / Yorgos Karahalis)

A 77-year-old Greek man has committed suicide in central Athens by the nation’s parliament, shooting himself with a handgun in apparent financial desperation.

Eyewitness reports say that the man shouted “So I won’t leave debts for my children” before turning the gun on himself. Others claimed he said nothing.

Greek state media reports the man left a suicide note saying “The Tsolakoglou government has annihilated all traces for my survival. And since I cannot find justice, I cannot find another means to react besides putting a decent end [to my life], before I start searching the garbage for food.”

Georgios Tsolakoglou headed the Greek collaborationist government during the German occupation of Greece in the Second World War.

The note has been widely regarded as drawing a parallel between Lucas Papademos’ current collaborationist government and Tsolakoglou’s regime because of the economic crisis in the country.

The incident occurred around 9 am (local time) in Syntagma Square, just outside a metro station, when the area was filled with people and commuters. The man took his life behind a big tree, which concealed him from most eyes. Two people sitting on a bench some 10 meters away have been questioned by the police. An investigation into a motive has been opened.

The pensioner, whose name is not yet released, appears to have been a pharmacist who owned a drugstore in Athens, which he later had to sell, Lourantos Costas, the head of the Attica Pharmacist’s Association told the Greek daily The City Press.

The shocked Greek community is issuing calls for a “Syntagma afternoon” later on Wednesday. Motorcyclists are planning a protest ride around the capital starting at 17:30 local time (14:30 GMT).

‘Who’s next?’

People are bringing flowers to the tree under which the desperate old man took his own life. They also leave messages on the tree: “Austerity kills,” “Not a suicide; a murder” or “Who’s gonna be next?

The number of suicides has dramatically increased in the country since the beginning of the economic crisis, shows data released by the Greek Health Ministry.

Prior to the economic downturn Greece had the lowest suicide rate in Europe at 2.8 for every 100,000 inhabitants. Now, this figure has almost doubled, with police reporting over 600 suicide cases in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Attempted suicides are also on the up.

Just on Tuesday, a 38-year-old Albanian man killed himself on the island of Crete. He had been unemployed for some time. The financial hardship made him jump off his second-floor balcony, reported local news.

The private sector is proving to be no safe haven either, as in the last few months several businessmen have fatally shot themselves.

To secure loan payments to foreign investors, Greece has been forced to drastically cut state spending by slashing public salaries and pensions by almost 40 per cent, while the unemployment rate has hit 21 per cent.

But so far the Greek government has failed to pull the country out of its three-year economic downturn and continues to rack up austerity measures to qualify for EU bailout packages.


(Reuters / Yorgos Karahalis)
(Reuters / Yorgos Karahalis)

‘Killing Austerity’ sweeps through stricken EU

Greece is not the only country to see a spike in the suicide rate caused by the government’s effort to battle crippled finances.

In neighboring Italy, a 78-year-old woman threw herself out of her third-floor apartment on Tuesday after her monthly pension was cut from 800 to 600 euro. Since the 25 per cent cut, the pensioner from Sicily had reportedly been struggling to make ends meet.

The government is making us all poorer, apart from the wealthy – who they don’t touch – in contrast with us workers and small businessmen who are struggling with heavy debts,” said her son, Bruno Marsana, as quoted by The Daily Telegraph.

On Monday, a picture frame-maker hanged himself in Rome. His suicide note told of “overwhelming economic problems.” Previously, two men in northern Italy set themselves on fire in two separate incidents, citing financial woes as well. Both survived, sustaining severe burns.

Italy, like Greece, is struggling with a recession and mounting unemployment by increasingly severe austerity measures. This includes drastic spending cuts, tax hikes and pension reform. Rome is also trying to pass an unpopular labor decree, which will make it easier for companies to sack employees.


(Reuters / Yorgos Karahalis)
(Reuters / Yorgos Karahalis)

(Reuters / Yorgos Karahalis)
Let Eternal Light Shine Upon Him, May He Rest in Peace

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