Tuesday 12 December 2017

Greek bank worker plunges to death from Acropolis in suspected suicide

Renee Maltezou

A GREEK bank worker plunged to his death from the Acropolis today, in what police said could be the latest in a growing number of suicides caused by economic suffering in the debt-ridden nation.

The man was in his 40s and worked at Greece's troubled state-owned agricultural lender, ATEbank.

He took a break shortly after starting work in the morning but never returned, police said.

"Guards and tourists saw him at the spot before the jump," a police official said on condition of anonymity.

"Others heard a loud scream and saw him lying on the ground. It could be suicide, but there's no note." The official said the man did not appear to have any financial problems.

The incident happened at around 9 a.m., as tourists began arriving at Greece's most famous attraction, a 150-metre high, flat-topped rock which is the location of the 5th century BC Parthenon temple.

The growing rate of suicide in Greece has come to symbolise the human toll of the country's unabated debt crisis, as repeated bouts of austerity drive Greeks to despair.

The country's government, which took office after a June 17 election, says the suffering has become intolerable and it will ask the European Union at a two-day summit starting on Thursday to ease the punishing terms imposed in exchange for an international bailout.

Conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is under huge public pressure to ease the burden of the IMF-EU bailout as he faces an opposition committed to tearing it up, which made strong gains in the election.

Unable to attend the summit because of eye surgery at the weekend, Samaras sent a letter to EU leaders asking for a "different approach", a government spokesman said on Wednesday.

He is unlikely to win much leeway, with euro zone paymaster Germany fiercely opposed to any let-up in the austerity.

The suicide rate in Greece has shot up through five years of recession and two years of steep cuts to wages, pensions and jobs in exchange for two multi-billion-euro bailouts since 2010.

Critics say the austerity has helped condemn the lifeless Greek economy to ever deeper recession, shuttering businesses and driving unemployment to almost 23 percent.

Anger and frustration have driven voters to the far left and right fringes of Greek politics, and scarred the streets of Athens with repeated bouts of violent protests.

On Wednesday, gunmen driving a van packed with gas canisters firebombed the Athens headquarters of US software giant Microsoft. Suspicion fell on increasingly active left-wing militants.

Latest statistics show an 18pc rise in the number of suicides in 2010. In 2011, Athens alone saw a 25pc increase over the previous year.

The crisis has also driven more Greeks to use anti-depressants or seek psychiatric care.

A 77-year-old retired pharmacist became a symbol of the national anguish when he shot and killed himself outside parliament in Athens in April. He left a note saying he refused to scrounge for food in the garbage.


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