ATHENS – Greece’s economic crisis, that is sapping the spirit out of the country as well as its finances, is so wearing that President Karolos Papoulias – who was booed at Oxi Day celebrations and honored Independence Day at a VIP-only parade blocked off to the public – said there will not be a commemoration this year to mark the July 23 anniversary of the fall of the 1967-74 military dictatorship and ruling junta of the Colonels.
“The event for the anniversary of democracy will not take place this year,” his office announced. “This is dictated by the suffering of the Greek people.” Instead, he said that July 23rd would be used as an opportunity for “contemplation,” so that the government and people can think about not just the meaning of the day but what is happening in contemporary Greece.
“The honor that is bestowed upon those who fought the dictatorship will be reflected in contemplating instead,” Papoulis said in the announcement. He fought against the occupying Nazi forces during World War II. There was no indication whether Papoulias was worried about another backlash or protests from citizens who have been demonstrating for two years against austerity measures demanded by international lenders in return for rescue loans. Greek politicians have been fearful of making public appearances for two years because they have routinely been booed, insulted and had eggs and yogurt thrown at them.
The postponement means Greeks will not get to honor those who helped bring down a vicious dictatorship backed by the United States. Ironically, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who came to Greece during his time in office to apologize for America’s role in propping up a Right-Wing government that exiled and tortured people, was to meet on July 22 with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to discuss the effort of Hellenic Initiative, an idea of prominent Greek Americans to raise $100 million to give to Greek charities to help people during an economic crisis which has created 22.5 percent unemployment and is closing 1,000 businesses a week.