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What does the YES vote mean? What does the NO vote mean? Greeks face confusion amid Sunday’s referendum

The crisis ballot on a European bailout proposal comes down to 68 word question and two financial / technical documents that may have Greek citizens a bit confused as to what happens after the referendum results are announced.

Alex Christoforou

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If the referendum goes along as scheduled (reports suggest it might be rolled back), Greeks are struggling to find meaning with the choice they are being asked to make come Sunday.

The governing SYRIZA party has positioned the referendum as a vote on whether to accept the Troika’s proposal…but what exactly would that mean for Greeks voting YES to such a plan? Will things magically go back to normal? Will the austerity they voted YES for result in another memorandum a year down the line, and indefinite loans to keep afloat?

If Greeks vote NO, then what? Is a new proposal going to surface? Will both parties restart negotiations?

The EU has cleverly positioned the referendum as a vote on whether to stay in the Euro. Of course no one in Brussels has clarified if this means to stay in the Eurozone or the actual European Union (two very different things).

More questions arise regarding the Euro YES or NO framing of the referendum.

If Greeks vote NO does this give the EU the right to kick Greece out of the Eurozone, but remain in the European Union…or is Greece out of both entities? More importantly since no mechanism exists for “leaving” Europe…who, how, and under what legal premise will all this take place?

Once again if Greeks vote YES, will Brussels see this as capitulation so as to begin heavy austerity measures and full on asset stripping? Will Europe place their own, “Brussels friendly” puppet leader (as they have done once before in Greece and in Italy) in order to secure the country’s assets and avoid another mini uprising? Will the EU see this as a green light for full-on colonisation?

The 68-word ballot question mentions four international institutions and asks Greek voters for their opinion on two technical documents that were not made public before the referendum call.

The referendum question translated into English:

“Greek people are hereby asked to decide whether they accept a draft agreement document submitted by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, at the Eurogroup meeting held on on June 25 and which consists of two documents:

‘‘The first document is called Reforms for the Completion of the Current Program and Beyond and the second document is called Preliminary Debt Sustainability Analysis.

‘‘- Those citizens who reject the institutions’ proposal vote Not Approved / NO

 ‘‘- Those citizens who accept the institutions’ proposal vote Approved / YES.’’

Via Bloomberg…

“If we go back to the drachma, then what?” asks George Beltas, a 75-year-old retired construction worker in the Greek city of Patras.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called a surprise referendum for Sunday on how much more austerity his country is willing to endure, and Beltas is struggling to make sense of it all.

The ballot question, formally presented on Monday afternoon, loosely translates as: “Should we accept the proposal submitted on June 26, 2015, by the Eurogroup, European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund?” Whether in Greek or English, voters say, the referendum is confusing, referring to a “plan of agreement … composed of two parts,” attaching two complex documents in English and not clearly explaining anything.

“Yes or no, that’s what they tell us the choice is,” Beltas says. “But they’re not saying what will happen later. … What will the government do after the vote?” He plans to vote yes.

“People don’t understand what they’re voting for,” says George, an attorney in Athens who asks that his last name not be used. “Many think it’s voting for Tsipras or voting against Tsipras. Or they say: ‘I want to stay in Europe, whatever this means.’ Everyone, the Greek people, the government, the Europeans, interprets the question in their own way. That’s the problem.”

Tsipras isn’t rushing to clear it up. In fact, things could get more confusing. His government today asked the EU for a two-year bailout, hours after the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini cited unnamed sources saying that Tsipras was reconsidering a last-ditch offer proposed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Negotiations have dragged for six months over how to manage Greece’s €312 billion ($350 billion) debt. They broke down late on Friday, when Tsipras surprised even his own government with a call for a referendum. The prime minister and his Syriza party leaders are encouraging voters to answer no (Όχι!) on Sunday and have taken to Twitter and other social and news media to describe the lenders’ stance toward Greece as “blackmail.” “The dignity of the Greeks” is at stake, Tsipras has repeated over the last several days.

Tens of thousands of anti-austerity demonstrators rallied in Athens on Monday night, carrying placards proclaiming “Όχι!” Today, a #YesToEuro rally is also drawing thousands of demonstrators in the Greek capital.

It’s not so simple, says Lilly Papagianni, a publicist with a film distribution company. “It’s a yes-or-no question, but it’s not a yes-or-no situation,” she says. “If we vote, it’s completely uncertain what happens next. What I don’t know and can’t figure out is what the EU really wants to do with Greece. Do they want to deal with us, or do they want to kick us out?”

Papagianni, who didn’t support Tsipras in the January elections, also plans to answer yes. “I didn’t trust him from the beginning because he was appealing to so much desperation, and he was proposing a dream that he couldn’t possibly make good on,” she says. One thing is making her choice easier, Papagianni says: “All I need to know is that no is the way the members of Golden Dawn [Greece’s nationalist, neo-Nazi party] will vote, so I’m comfortable with being on the opposite side of the spectrum from them.”

As of early Tuesday, polling in Greece suggested that no is beating yes, but the situation is volatile, according to Maria Karaklioumi, an Athens-based pollster. “Hour by hour, we’re seeing big shifts in people’s responses, and 15 percent of voters say they’re undecided,” she says. Her polls show support for Tsipras falling. His approval rating is just under 50 percent today; two weeks ago, it was more than 60 percent.

“People don’t trust Tsipras as much,” Karaklioumi says. “He tells us that the vote doesn’t have to do with our presence in the euro zone or not, so they’re afraid of that and don’t trust that.” On the question of whom the Greeks blame for the nation’s crisis, they’re not letting anyone off—they see both the government and the lenders as having created the mess they find themselves in. The deep division among Greeks on how to vote is playing out on social media, with people posting news articles and photos of flyers—anything to explain or sway the vote. An advocacy group for children with cancer posted a flyer to Facebook asking what yes and no mean: “Will their medicines be available? Will the necessary radiation devices be available?”

A deputy to the prime minister, asked in a TV interview on Monday what Greece will do if it fails to make its Tuesday payment of €1.5 billion to the IMF, didn’t answer the question. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis confirmed on Tuesday that Greece doesn’t have the money to make the payment, and the lenders said an extension would not be granted. In an interview that aired late Tuesday in Greece, Tsipras said that he’s not an “all-weather prime minister” and that he will resign if fewer than 55 percent of Greeks vote no.

The Greeks have suffered under austerity. Calls for pension cuts by the country’s lenders haven’t let up following a gradual series of reductions over the last few years. The government has raised property and utility taxes. Unemployment is at 25 percent, and it’s nearly double that for younger Greeks.

The latest challenge confronting Greeks is the capital controls imposed over the weekend. Banks are closed and will stay closed until at least Monday. For pensioners  who don’t have bank cards and are due to collect their monthly payments on Tuesday, the Finance Ministry said about 1,000 branches will open on Wednesday for withdrawals capped at €120 (about $135) this week and—after cards are issued—up to €60 a day.

Beltas, the retired construction worker, has a monthly pension of €700, cut by €150 two years ago. He hopes to receive the full payment on Tuesday. That, too, is a source of some confusion.

“I hear the banks will reopen to pay pensioners, and they’ll give us the full amount,” he says, adding that he doesn’t see how long this can go on.

References:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-30/greek-voters-have-just-one-question-what-does-yes-mean-

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EXPLOSIVE: Michael Cohen sentencing memo exposes serial liar with nothing to offer Mueller (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 38.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the Michael Cohen sentencing memo which paints the picture of a man who was not as close to Trump as he made it out to be…a serial liar and cheat who leveraged his thin connections to the Trump organization for money and fame.

It was Cohen himself who proudly labelled himself as Trump’s “fixer”. The sentencing memo hints at the fact that even Mueller finds no value to Cohen in relation to the ongoing Trump-Russia witch hunt investigation.

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Via Axios

Special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York have each submitted sentencing memos for President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, after Cohen pleaded guilty in two different cases related to his work for Trump and the Trump Organization.

The big picture: The Southern District of New York recommended Cohen serve a range of 51 to 63 months for four crimes — “willful tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, illegal campaign contributions, and making false statements to Congress.” Mueller, meanwhile, did not take a position on the length of Cohen’s statement, but said he has made substantial efforts to assist the investigation.

Southern District of New York

Mueller investigation

Michael J. Stern, a federal prosecutor with the Justice Department for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles noted via USA Today

In support of their request that he serve no time in prison, Cohen’s attorneys offered a series of testimonials from friends who described the private Michael Cohen as a “truly caring” man with a “huge heart” who is not only “an upstanding, honorable, salt of the earth man” but also a “selfless caretaker.”

The choirboy portrayed by Cohen’s lawyers stands in sharp opposition to Cohen’s public persona as Trump’s legal bulldog, who once threatened a reporter with: “What I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting. Do you understand me?”

Prosecutors focused their sentencing memo on Cohen as Mr. Hyde. Not only did they detail Cohen’s illegal activities, which include millions of dollars of fraud, they also recognized the public damage that stemmed from his political crimes — describing Cohen as “a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy.”

Rebuffing efforts by Cohen’s attorneys to recast him as a good guy who made a few small mistakes, prosecutors cited texts, statements of witnesses, recordings, documents and other evidence that proved Cohen got ahead by employing a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” The prosecutors attributed Cohen’s crimes to “personal greed,” an effort to “increase his power and influence,” and a desire to maintain his “opulent lifestyle.”

Perhaps the most damning reveal in the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing memo is that Cohen refused to fully cooperate. That’s despite his public relations campaign to convince us that he is a new man who will cooperate with any law enforcement authority, at any time, at any place.

As a former federal prosecutor who handled hundreds of plea deals like Cohen’s, I can say it is extremely rare for any credit to be recommended when a defendant decides not to sign a full cooperation deal. The only reason for a refusal would be to hide information. The prosecutors said as much in their sentencing memo: Cohen refused “to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his past,” and “further declined” to discuss “other areas of investigative interest.”

 

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Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Huawei CFO Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


You do have to wonder about the political savvy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The furious fallout from China over the arrest of a senior telecoms executive is going to do severe damage to Canadian national interests.

Trudeau’s fawning over American demands is already rebounding very badly for Canada’s economy and its international image.

The Canadian arrest – on behalf of Washington – of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seems a blatant case of the Americans acting politically and vindictively. If the Americans are seen to be acting like bandits, then the Canadians are their flunkies.

Wanzhou was detained on December 1 by Canadian federal police as she was boarding a commercial airliner in Vancouver. She was reportedly handcuffed and led away in a humiliating manner which has shocked the Chinese government, media and public.

The business executive has since been released on a $7.4 million bail bond, pending further legal proceedings. She is effectively being kept under house arrest in Canada with electronic ankle tagging.

To add insult to injury, it is not even clear what Wanzhou is being prosecuted for. The US authorities have claimed that she is guilty of breaching American sanctions against Iran by conducting telecoms business with Tehran. It is presumed that the Canadians arrested Wanzhou at the request of the Americans. But so far a US extradition warrant has not been filed. That could take months. In the meantime, the Chinese businesswoman will be living under curfew, her freedom denied.

Canadian legal expert Christopher Black says there is no juridical case for Wanzhou’s detention. The issue of US sanctions on Iran is irrelevant and has no grounds in international law. It is simply the Americans applying their questionable national laws on a third party. Black contends that Canada has therefore no obligation whatsoever to impose those US laws regarding Iran in its territory, especially given that Ottawa and Beijing have their own separate bilateral diplomatic relations.

In any case, what the real issue is about is the Americans using legal mechanisms to intimidate and beat up commercial rivals. For months now, Washington has made it clear that it is targeting Chinese telecoms rivals as commercial competitors in a strategic sector. US claims about China using telecoms for “spying” and “infiltrating” American national security are bogus propaganda ruses to undermine these commercial rivals through foul means.

It also seems clear from US President Donald Trump’s unsubtle comments this week to Reuters, saying he would “personally intervene” in the Meng case “if it helped trade talks with China”, that the Huawei executive is being dangled like a bargaining chip. It was a tacit admission by Trump that the Americans really don’t have a legal case against her.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland bounced into damage limitation mode following Trump’s thuggish comments. She said that the case should not be “politicized” and that the legal proceedings should not be tampered with. How ironic is that?

The whole affair has been politicized from the very beginning. Meng’s arrest, or as Christopher Black calls it “hostage-taking”, is driven by Washington’s agenda of harassment against China for commercial reasons, under a legal pretext purportedly about Iranian sanctions.

When Trump revealed the cynical expediency of him “helping to free Wanzhou”, then the Canadians realized they were also being exposed for the flunkies that they are for American banditry. That’s why Freeland was obliged to quickly adopt the fastidious pretense of legal probity.

Canadian premier Justin Trudeau has claimed that he wasn’t aware of the American request for Wanzhou’s detention. Trudeau is being pseudo. For such a high-profile infringement against a senior Chinese business leader, Ottawa must have been fully briefed by the Americans. Christopher Black, the legal expert, believes that Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

What Trudeau and his government intended to get out of performing this sordid role for American thuggery is far from clear. Maybe after being verbally mauled by Trump as “weak and dishonest” at the G7 summit earlier this year, in June, Trudeau decided it was best to roll over and be a good little puppy for the Americans in their dirty deed against China.

But already it has since emerged that Canada is going to pay a very heavy price indeed for such dubious service to Washington. Beijing has warned that it will take retaliation against both Washington and Ottawa. And it is Ottawa that is more vulnerable to severe repercussions.

This week saw two Canadian citizens, one a former diplomat, detained in China on spying charges.

Canadian business analysts are also warning that Beijing can inflict harsh economic penalties on Ottawa. An incensed Chinese public have begun boycotting Canadian exports and sensitive Canadian investments in China are now at risk from being blocked by Beijing. A proposed free trade deal that was being negotiated between Ottawa and Beijing now looks dead in the water.

And if Trudeau’s government caves in to the excruciating economic pressure brought to bear by Beijing and then abides by China’s demand to immediately release Meng Wanzhou, Ottawa will look like a pathetic, gutless lackey to Washington. Canada’s reputation of being a liberal, independent state will be shredded. Even then the Chinese are unlikely to forget Trudeau’s treachery.

With comic irony, there’s a cringemaking personal dimension to this unseemly saga.

During the 197os when Trudeau’s mother Margaret was a thirty-something socialite heading for divorce from his father, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, she was often in the gossip media for indiscretions at nightclubs. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards claims in his autobiography that Margaret Trudeau was a groupie for the band, having flings with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood. Her racy escapades and louche lifestyle brought shame to many Canadians.

Poor Margaret Trudeau later wound up divorced, disgraced, financially broke and scraping a living from scribbling tell-all books.

Justin, her eldest son, is finding out that being a groupie for Washington’s banditry is also bringing disrepute for him and his country.

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US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005.

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Via Zerohedge


“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

According to Stars and Stripes the dangerous cross-section of powder keg conflicts and geopolitical players means “a new war” is on the horizon:

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.
So a US-backed local politician says the US can’t leave or there will be war, while American defense officials simultaneously recognize they are occupying the very center of an impending insurgency from hell — all of which fits the textbook definition of quagmire perfectly.

The New Yorker: “The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia.”

But in September the White House announced a realignment of its official priorities in Syria, namely to act “as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.” This means the continued potential and likelihood of war with Syria, Iran, and Russia in the region is ever present, per Stripes:

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control.

Already signs of an Iraq-style insurgency targeting US forces in eastern Syria are beginning to emerge.

In Raqqa, the largest Syrian city at the heart of US occupation and reconstruction efforts, the Stripes report finds the following:

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

Recent reports out of the Pentagon suggests defense officials simply want to throw more money into US efforts in Syria, which are further focused on training and supplying the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (or Kurdish/YPG-dominated SDF), which threatens confrontation with Turkey as its forces continue making preparations for a planned attack on Kurdish enclaves in Syria this week.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005:

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

As America settles in for yet another endless and “indefinite” occupation of a Middle East country, perhaps all that remains is for the president to land on an aircraft carrier with “Mission Accomplished” banners flying overhead?

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