Greek Gold

In the remote Northern Greek community of Skouries, a Canadian corporation, Eldorado Gold, has plans for a massive gold-mining operation. Ged Travers reports from a counter protest held shortly after the Greek people elected the left-wing Syriza government and the police gave their heavy-handed, militaristic tactics a much-needed break.

 

It should be remembered from the outset that the current problems that have divided the communities of Skouries, Halkidiki can be traced to two root causes: First, the corrupt Greek political elites of New Democracy and Pasok who have, since 1974, done everything in their power to help private corporations and their super-rich oligarch cronies at the expense of the ordinary people of Greece. Second, the equally corrupt Eldorado Gold Corporation which has consistently lied about the environmental damage of their open-pit mining operation. They have also bribed local and national media outlets to either ignore or hide the truth of the brutal repression of the anti-gold protesters; there's a Northern Ireland - style internal security operation in Skouries. The police have vehicle check-points set-up randomly to protect the gold-mining operation, anti-terror laws have been invoked after the burning of the ElDorado plant in Jan. 2013 which saw campaigners smeared as "terrorists".

 

 

We have a new Syriza government in Greece that was elected on 25th. January 2015. It's early days in the new government's administration and they have had very little time to clear-up the mess left behind by four-decades of mainstream elite political corruption but one aspect of their program shows signs of receiving an echo among the police in Skouries last Sunday. This is the idea of community policing rather than the directly violent confrontational strategies and tactics which have been forced on the police by the old corrupt regime. In the past, particularly the last five years of the artificially constructed debt "crisis", the police have been instructed to go in with a heavy hand in order to break the spirit of the many Greek people who fight back against the troikan austerity regime. This has led to violent confrontations which have been repeated so many times that they qualify for inclusion in Einstein's definition of insanity: "to repeat the same mistake over and over again expecting a different outcome each time."

 

The senior police commanders exercised control over their rank-and-file officers as did the anti-gold campaigners over their grassroots supporters who include ordinary people from Skouries and Thessaloniki. We are seeing the concrete beginnings of a new attitude to policing demonstrations since the Syriza government came to power only a matter of weeks ago. However, this glimmer of hope needs to be built on to offset the decades of neglect by the old political elites who were decisively swept away on 25th. January. It is clear that the police can handle potential flashpoints without tear-gas, stun grenades and baton charges.

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