A general strike paralyzed Greece a second day as outraged protesters gathered by the tens of thousands outside parliament today, where lawmakers prepared to vote on intensely unpopular austerity measures needed to secure the next $11 billion installment from the international rescue loans that have so far prevented the country from sliding into bankruptcy. The austerity bill won initial approval in a first vote last night, and deputies are now to vote on the details. "If the law is not approved, including every single article it contains ... the country will once again serve as the scapegoat on which Europe's historic, political, and institutional shortcomings will be dumped," threatened Greece's finance minister.
Earlier, a communist party-backed union abandoned a bid to prevent lawmakers from entering parliament after riot police shut down main access roads. Unions seemed resigned to the law being passed, but warned that the whole country virulently opposed it. "It looks as if (lawmakers) may be set to vote in favor of the new austerity law," says a union honcho. "But our European friends must know that our prime minister will go to the European summit naked, because the promises he will make have no backing in his country and cannot be enforced." (Read more labor strike stories.)