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EU austerity claims another victim

The Greek man who killed himself in Athens reportedly said he didn't want to leave debts to his kids.

An older Greek man shot himself in the head in Athens on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. In a note he left behind, the man tied his death to the country's economic crisis.

The dire warnings about the impending collapse of the euro zone a few weeks ago have faded. Germany and the other lead nations agreed to bail out Greece yet again, averting the possiblilty of an immediate default. 

While the crisis is far from solved, some analysts seem to think the worst may be over. But the economic pain for ordinary civilians remains very real, and not easily sated by euro firewalls or political agreements. The man who died on Wednesday was a 77-year-old retired pharmacist. The AP quoted one Greek who said that in better times, this man would have been able to finish his life in peace. 

"A pharmacist ought to be able to live comfortably on his pension," said Vassilis Papadopoulos, a spokesman for the "I won't pay" group. "So for him to reach the point of suicide out of economic hardship means a lot. It shows how the social fabric is unraveling."

Read more: Is the worst of the EU crisis really over?

Greece has had to make major concessions in order to persuade its euro zone partners to help pay off its debt, including making sweeping cuts to pensions and public jobs. That may have satisfied the European investors, but it has left Greeks struggling to survive. 

Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has aggressively pushed for severe austerity measures for Greece and other countries — believing that nations that spent frivoulously should feel a bit of pain if they are to be helped — conceded recently that growth solutions would also be important in helping the region recover. But few concrete steps have been taken to speed that process.

Greeks say help will have to come more quickly. GlobalPost has written about the transformation in society as Greeks have tried to cope with a new reality in which unemployment has doubled in the past two years. There's a man who cooks lunch for the needy every day in a different neighborhood. Parents team up to tutor each others' children. As GP's Ken Maguire wrote:

In what some call a “potato revolt,” farmers are using the internet to sell produce directly to citizens. This bypasses mark-ups by large retailers, and results in huge savings for consumers. The farmers in the northern town of Nevrokopi sold 24 tons of potatoes at cost a few weeks ago.

After the pharmacist's death on Wednesday, some Greeks were already blaming the austerity measures. Per the AP:

By Wednesday evening, dozens of written messages had been pinned to the tree under which the man shot himself, some reading: "It was a murder, not a suicide," and "Austerity kills."

Hundreds of protesters made their way across the street from the square to outside Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, chanting: "This was not a suicide, it was a state-perpetrated murder" and "Blood flows and seeks revenge."

The man, whose name wasn't released by the police, is not the first person to commit suicide in Greece — or elsewhere in the euro zone — because of troubles related to the economic crisis. Will he be the last?

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/news/regions/europe/eu-austerity-claims-another-victim

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