Greek lawmakers approve austerity bill, Athens burns

Greek parliament passes unpopular package of cuts; Papademos accepts implementation will be tough; violence erupts, petrol bombs create wall of fire.

A cinema in Athens burns_390 (photo credit: Reuters)
A cinema in Athens burns_390
(photo credit: Reuters)
ATHENS - Greece's parliament approved a deeply unpopular austerity bill on Monday to secure a second EU/IMF bailout and avoid national bankruptcy, as buildings burned across central Athens and violence spread around the country.
Cinemas, cafes, shops and banks were set ablaze in central Athens and black-masked protesters fought riot police outside parliament before lawmakers voted on the package that demands deep pay, pension and job cuts - the price of a 130 billion euro bailout needed to keep the country afloat.
State television reported the violence spread to the tourist islands of Corfu and Crete, the northern city of Thessaloniki and towns in central Greece. Police said 150 shops were looted in the capital and 34 buildings set ablaze.
Altogether 199 of the 300 lawmakers backed the bill, but 43 deputies from the two parties in the government of Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, the socialists and conservatives, rebelled by voting against. They were immediately expelled by their parties.
The rebellion and street violence foreshadowed the problems the government faces in implementing the cuts, which include a 22 percent reduction in the minimum wage - a package critics say condemns the Greek economy to an ever-deeper downward spiral.
Papademos, a technocrat brought into get a grip on his country's crisis, denounced the worst breakdown of order since 2008 when violence gripped Greece for weeks after police shot a 15-year-old schoolboy.
"Vandalism, violence and destruction have no place in a democratic country and won't be tolerated," he told parliament as it prepared to vote on the new 130 billion euro bailout to save Greece from a chaotic bankruptcy.