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Spain Recoils as Its Hungry Forage Trash Bins for a Next Meal

By SUZANNE DALEY, The New York Times

Published: September 24, 2012

“When you don’t have enough money,” she said, declining to give her name, “this is what there is.”

“It’s against the dignity of these people to have to look for food in this manner,” said Eduardo Berloso, an official in Girona, the city that padlocked its supermarket trash bins.

Mr. Berloso proposed the measure last month after hearing from social workers and seeing for himself one evening “the humiliating gesture of a mother with children looking around before digging into the bins.”

But Mr. Berloso’s locks created something of an uproar across Spain, where the economic crisis is fueling more and more protests highlighting hunger. A group of mayors and unionists in southern Spain, where unemployment rates are far above the average, recently staged Robin Hood raids on two supermarkets, loading carts with basic foods and pressing them to donate more food to the needy.

More than a dozen people are facing prosecution for theft over the stunt. But they are unrepentant and appear to have huge local support. “Taking some food and giving it to families who are having a really hard time, if this is stealing, I am guilty,” one of the men, Francisco Molero of the farmworkers’ SAT union, told the local news media afterward.

I.M.F.’s Call for More Cuts Irks Greece


Published: September 24, 2012

The impasse has elevated tensions here as Greece braces for a nationwide general strike planned on Wednesday that threatens to bring public services to a halt. The Greek people are increasingly angry over the prospect that public salaries and pensions will be cut again in a last-ditch bid to secure a new loan installment of 31.5 billion euros, or $40.7 billion, from Greece’s creditors.

The Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, plans to address the nation this week to bolster support for the austerity package. He has already publicly warned his center-right party, New Democracy, that he will oust lawmakers of the party failing to back the package once it comes up for a vote, probably in early October.

In this political calculus, Ms. Merkel and others see Mr. Samaras as the last best hope for Greece. They worry that if the government teeters, new elections might be called in which his party could lose power to the increasingly popular leftist party Syriza, led by the political maverick Alexis Tsipras. Mr. Tsipras advocates tearing up the loan agreement with Greece’s international creditors. That would raise the risk of default and an eventual exit from the euro.

At the meeting, Poul Thomsen, the I.M.F.’s lead negotiator for Greece, was pushing hard for additional tax increases and wage and pension cuts, these people say. Mr. Stournaras angrily gestured to a bullet hole in one of the windows of the Finance Ministry.

“You see this – this came from a bullet,” Mr. Stournaras said. “Do you want to overthrow the government?”

The impasse reveals the extent of the government’s alarm at the worsening mood on the streets. More protests are likely in October, when Parliament is expected to vote on the measure. Many Greeks are now talking about the potential for civil unrest when the weather turns colder and many people may not be able to afford to heat their homes. Fuel prices, including gasoline, have been climbing, and whatever cushion Greeks on the margins had in their savings is gone.

Moreover, questions are swirling about the extent to which Greece’s police force will be willing and able to maintain public order, because it is also facing salary cuts. A number of officers were held off with pepper spray by riot police officers last week outside of Mr. Samaras’s residence, where they held a demonstration.

Draghi Rally Lets Skeptics Dump Spain for Bunds

By David Goodman and Emma Charlton, Bloomberg News

Sep 25, 2012 8:47 AM ET

Demand for German debt, perceived to be among the safest securities, is being sustained as Spain weighs a sovereign bailout to supplement a 100-billion euro ($129 billion) bank rescue package and as Europe’s economy slides toward recession.

Even as policy makers strive to end the three-year debt crisis, the region’s economic outlook is weakening. Euro-area surveys on Sept. 20 showed services and manufacturing output fell to a 39-month low in September adding to evidence the economy is heading for a recession. Figures yesterday showed German business confidence unexpectedly fell to the lowest in more than two and a half years in September.

“We are in a period where the ECB has laid down its framework to save the euro but the fundamentals will ultimately creep back in and you will see new problems flare,” said Harvinder Sian, a fixed income strategist at RBS in London. “Bunds will remain supported. I think 1.55 percent to 1.70 percent is a good entry location.”

Spain is in its second recession in three years, endangering plans to trim its budget deficit and avoid a bailout. The euro-region economy will probably shrink 0.4 percent this year, the ECB said this month.


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