- The Washington Times - Friday, December 26, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

With regard to your Dec. 19 editorial “Greeks run amok,” which I read with great interest, allow me to share some thoughts.

On the evening of Dec. 6, a 15-year old student was killed by a police officer. Due process has been followed, and the two officers responsible for this horrible act have been brought to justice, as you accurately report. At the same time, the whole of Greece - the government, the opposition and, most importantly, the people themselves - unanimously condemned this crime while thousands of demonstrators expressed, in one voice, their deep sorrow and outrage.

Unfortunately, a few hundred marginal extremists hijacked this outpouring of grief and turned it into an opportunity for violence. Their aim was to undermine the rule of law and democracy. All political powers - again, unanimously - condemned the extremists’ violent acts and called for their moral isolation and punishment.

The fact that a huge number of the demonstrators were teenagers expressing - peacefully - their frustration over the killing of their fellow student compelled the police to adopt defensive tactics in order not to risk further loss of life. No one would want a repetition of the tragic experience of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, with 53 deaths and more than 2,500 injuries.

It is certain that the Greek government is determined to protect law and order (375 arrests have taken place), and it guarantees safety, as it did during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. It should be noted that the police tactics will be re-evaluated when the dust settles. Since last week, tension has been de-escalating, and we are returning to complete normality.

In the past five years, we have worked hard to strengthen our economy (our growth rate has been double that of the Eurozone’s average, while the International Monetary Fund forecasts a 2 percent growth rate in 2009) and to implement bold reforms in order to provide answers to young people’s uncertainties. These are understandable uncertainties, I might add, especially in the light of the deep global economic crisis. Finally, we will work even harder to address young people’s needs, to create more opportunities for the young, and to restore our young people’s trust in us.

PANOS W. LIVADAS
General secretary of information
Embassy of Greece
Washington

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