Cypriots vent their anger in front of parliament

‘Democracy has been suspended by the troika’

A woman looks on as she joins other Cypriot bank workers during a protest against the possibility of their pensions being affected by the terms of the bailout. Photograph: Andreas Manolis/Reuters

A woman looks on as she joins other Cypriot bank workers during a protest against the possibility of their pensions being affected by the terms of the bailout. Photograph: Andreas Manolis/Reuters

Fri, Apr 5, 2013, 05:00

The first Cypriots to gather at the police barricade on the corner of Jawaharlal Nehru Avenue that runs in front of parliament are members of the Communist trade union PEO, brandishing red flags and placards reading, “Hands off our Pensions” and “Pensions are for our Children!”

This week’s protest, timed to coincide with debate in the house of representatives, is against the troika’s appropriation of provident funds to finance losses in Cyprus’s second largest bank Laiki Bank, set to be wound down, and haircuts on pensions and deposits in the Bank of Cyprus, the largest.

‘Only talk’
“The politicians will only talk and talk,” says Eleni. “They can do nothing. Democracy has been suspended by the troika.”

Asked what he thought of the bailout deal, PEO activist Nikos says: “Because we are at the eastern edge of Europe, they don’t think we are part of the union but some far away place, maybe in Africa.”

Members of ETYK, the 11,000-strong bank staff’s union went on strike for two hours while 12 women from 12 nations hang a banner proclaiming solidarity with Cypriots from the barricade rail under the gaze of the police.

The women have come from Larnaca where the executive committee of the Women’s International Democratic Federation has been meeting. “We come from Latin America, Africa, and Asia,” says Maya, a Palestinian originally from Jaffa.

Laiki branch manager Rodoula says: “Our pension funds are gone. We have nothing for our old age. Our homes are mortgaged, we took loans to buy shares. Only debts remain.”

Another Laiki staff member, Xenia asks: “Where is the solidarity of Europe?” Her husband, Andreas, who also works at Laiki, says: “They put pressure and made new demands all the time instead of trying to save a profitable bank.”

Rodoula adds, “We told customers not to worry – loyal customers who have lost everything. I feel guilty.”