Desperate Greeks in frantic search for cash machines

GMT 18:21 2015 Sunday ,28 June

Arab Today, arab today Desperate Greeks in frantic search for cash machines

A Greek man puts banknotes in his wallet
Athens - AFP

Greeks raced Sunday to find cash machines in an increasingly anxious run on the banks, as speculation mounted of capital controls and a possible bank holiday being declared.

"I don't know what happens -- it's crazy," a Greek woman, Voula, told AFP while on the lookout for a working cashpoint in Athens.

In central Athens, as least a dozen ATMs could no longer dispense bank notes, prompting Athenians and tourists alike to roam the streets in a frantic hunt for cash.

Greece held an emergency gathering of its systemic stability council, as the clock ticked on a two-day countdown to a possible default.

"I tried many machines -- five, six, eight, ten -- I am not sure," Voula added after failing to withdraw money from yet another ATM.

"I feel anxious, sad, angry about the government. I hate them! They put Greece on a very dangerous adventure."
At one particular cash machine in the Greek capital, a queue of more than 100 people snaked along the street.

"There is a fear that tomorrow, banks will not open, so I am taking out money for the rent (and) daily expenses," said a woman, waiting in the line, who declined to give her name.

"We are worried about the situation. We have to take care of ourselves.

"The last months (have been) unusual but this is the first time I have seen something like this," she told AFP.

According to an anonymous banking source in Greece, only 40 percent of the nation's cash machines currently have money in them -- purely because they cannot be restocked with banknotes quickly enough.

- Everyone sad, upset, depressed -

Many other Greeks meanwhile took to beaches, cafes and churches on Sunday, just like they do every week -- but the mood was downbeat as the country teetered on the brink of a default that could see it crash out of the euro.

"Everyone is very sad, very upset and depressed," said 42-year-old Anna Apostolopoulos as she sipped a coffee on the terrace outside the trendy Balux cafe in Glyfada, a well-heeled resort half an hour from Athens.
It will be a "miracle", she added, if Greeks vote in favour of the creditors' bailout proposal when it goes to a referendum next Sunday -- and she blasted her government as "immature children" for putting it to a public vote in the first place.

"They are terrible negotiators," she said. "The prime minister is very, very irresponsible. He was elected to make decisions."

Greeks were nevertheless refusing to let the crisis ruin their weekend entirely, and all the deckchairs on the beach were occupied.

"Yesterday I didn't want to go to the beach," Apostolopoulos said. "I watched TV all day and I felt down. But I promised my son we would go, so we went."

A short stroll away, laboratory chemist Joanna Avayanos said she was worried by talk of a return to Greece's former currency, the drachma.

Like other jittery compatriots worried that the government may introduce capital controls, Avayanos has been trying to withdraw cash.

"Yesterday with my mother we went to two cash machines and it said there was a problem," said Avayanos as she walked her daughter along the beach in a stroller.

"In the supermarket, we could not use our card. That made me suspicious. I don't know what is going on."

- Too much 'bad times' -

Since Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced the referendum early Saturday, about 1.3 billion euros ($1.45 billion) have been withdrawn from Greek banks, according to the head of the bank workers' union Stavros Koukos.
Tsipras' governing radical left party Syriza, which rose to power in January on an anti-austerity ticket, slammed the creditors' latest offer, arguing it would hurt workers, pensioners, young people and farmers, and has urged Greeks to vote against it in the referendum on July 5.

Among other demands, Greece's creditors want public sector wage cuts and higher taxes on food and restaurant meals, in return for five-month, 12-billion-euro ($13.4-billion) extension of the bailout programme.

Retired nurse Fotini expressed anger at six years of economic downturn and painful austerity measures demanded by previous EU-IMF bailouts, including cuts to her pension.

"We have had too much (of the) bad times," the 76-year-old said as she sat on a bench in Syntagma Square, waiting for a friend.

"The money the government gives me is down every month," she said in reference to her pension, a key area which creditors had targeted for state cutbacks.

"Greek people want good lives, work... We have too many men and women without jobs. It is not right."


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