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Anti-austerity protest rally held in Athens

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-03-06 00:48

ATHENS - Thousands of farmers from across Greece gathered in central Athens on Tuesday to rally in front of the parliament in protest of harsh austerity policies which have altered dramatically their everyday life over the past three years.

The protesters, who have staged a month-long nationwide mobilization in February, briefly blocking national highways with their tractors to make their requests heard, took to the streets of the Greek capital this time, chanting slogans with their demands.

"No more taxes, no more peanuts for pensions, we are starving," they shouted, raising black banners who read "an occupation under elimination."

Greek farmers asked the government for tax breaks and cheaper fuel to keep production costs and the prices of their products within reasonable levels, so that recession-hit Greek consumers can afford them.

As debt-wrecked Greece has entered the sixth year of deep recession this year and above 27 percent of Greeks are currently jobless, confronting increasing taxes, salary and pension cuts.

The average income of Greece's households has been reduced by 30-40 percent, according to estimates.

"We are here, calling on all Greeks to stand by our side in the struggle we give for our survival," vowed unionists, adding that they are seeking "a new agricultural development which will be serving people's needs."

Among protesters on Tuesday at the starting point of the peaceful rally was General Secretary of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) Aleka Papariga.

"The government must know that Greek people will not get tired of fighting and farmers will not mobilize only once or twice a year," she told Xinhua.

"These fights will create a strong river that will unite the working class with the farmers and the poor businessmen and will sweep not only the memorandum and the loan agreements, but also political parties and those who take advantage of the nation," she stressed.

"We want to overturn these policies which lead to the deaths of thousands of lower middle class farmers," Vangelis Boutas, President of the Federation of Farmers' Associations in the central Greece city of Karditsa, told Xinhua.

"Alongside with the workers, the self-employed, the young people and the women we can overturn this tragic situation," said Boutas.

"The agricultural family is the basis of the Greek economy. In the capitalist system, the agricultural economy is a way of profit. But we want agricultural products to cover people's needs," said Petros Anastopoulos, another 50-year-old farmer.

Rounds of talks with government officials so far have led to an impasse. Under bailout aid commitments with international lenders since 2010, Athens does not have much space for the tough austerity in order to exit the acute debt crisis.

Protesting farmers insist that there is always room for dialogue and different policies as the government negotiates this week the next steps in the framework of efforts to counter the crisis.

For the farmers, there is no turning back, they said.

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