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I Am Spartacus! As Greece prepares to boil, the Admiral speaks

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
www.real-democracy.gr - Revolutionary news straight from tent city.
www.real-democracy.gr - Revolutionary news straight from tent city.

The situation in Greece chugs along, and threatens to reach a boiling point on June 28, when Prime Minister George Papandreous attempts to push austerity measures through parliament. The austerity measures, handed down by the IMF, must be passed, or the IMF will deny the latest instalment of the latest $110 billion loan to Greece. Without it, the country threatens to default on its loans, which range in the $100 billion-plus range. If this should happen, Germany and France will shoulder the default, and will be plunged into deep financial trouble. Also, public sector salaries will not be paid, and shit will really hit the fan.

The austerity measures are deeply unpopular with the Greek populace, as they further gouge the social safety net and privatize almost everything but the Parthenon itself. Every night thousands gather in Syndagma Square to collectively yell at the adjoining parliament building. Many note that of the minimal violence that has happened, agents provocateurs are to blame. Protest organizers have called for a 48-hour general strike across Greece for the 28th and 29th of June, which would most likely bring the country to a standstill, if not bring down the government with it.

On a prophetic note, a legion of Spartan demonstrators is now marching across Peloponnesia to join the masses in Syndagma Square. The last time the Spartans marched on Athens the glory of ancient Greece effectively ended, and sparked off a little something called THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR! (I'm just sayin').

On June 21st, in an attempt to placate the masses, Papandreous shuffled his cabinet. To the Greek people, he may as well have shuffled a deck of cards. For the Freedom Flotilla II, the shuffle did have repercussions. A new Foreign Affairs Minister was installed, meaning that all the handshakes and how-do-you-dos between members of the Freedom Flotilla II steering committee and the old Foreign Minister were not exactly all for naught, but it did mean that new hands would have to be shaken, as I'm told is the proper Greek fashion.

Someone has to shake the proper hands in the proper Greek fashion, and that someone is Evangelos Pissias. He's one of the Greek members of the Flotilla II steering committee, and although he smilingly rejects the title, at Flotilla headquarters they call him “The Admiral.” Evangelos keeps a tight ship. Between organizing the motions of ten other international boats, dancing the political dance, and keeping the ever-present agents of MOSSAD off the trail, he's a busy man. Decisions are arranged by committee, and unlike a military operation, this takes time. Evangelos is the man with the inside angle on ships, crew, contacts, etc.

 Between a steady in-out flow of international activists with their own important agendas, strong Greek coffee, and a haze of cigarette smoke, I captured a moment of The Admiral's time.

Miles Howe: The Israeli government knows that Greece is involved in the Freedom Flotilla II. Are you aware if they're putting pressure on the Greek government?

Evangelos Pissias: The Israeli government is asking the Greek government to be illegal. To do something illegal. This is not bilateral relations. This is not diplomacy, because it sounds like blackmail.

MH: Any word on how the Greek government is reacting, and how they feel about the Flotilla movement?

EP: We hope that the Greek government, even if they disagree with our action because of their actual diplomatic strategy, will not do something illegal. So that they will respect the law, and they will allow the boats (to sail) through humanitarian action, and (allow) activists (to sail who are) acting for human rights.

MH: Can you talk a bit more about Greek and Israeli relations?

EP: The Israelis have intimidated the Greek government. But when you intimidate a government, you intimidate the people. So they've intimidated Greek people. They haven't given back our two boats from the last mission (The Freedom Flotilla). They gave back the Turkish boat (The Mavi Marmara), because maybe the balance of power was not positive for them and they were obliged.

But unfortunately, although it seems that Greek and Israeli governments had good relations, (the Israeli government) intimidated the Greek government by not allowing the two Greek boats (to return), although we really suffered through the Israeli bureaucracy, (and dealing with) the Israeli Minister of Defence, providing all necessary legal documents (but still we can't) take back Greek boats, with Greek flags, owned by Greek citizens. The boats were captured in international waters, which is condemned by all international agencies as an action of piracy.

So they intimidated us during the last mission. They intimidate us now when they put pressure on our government and pester our government to be illegal. From our side, we are not aggressive. But we are a proud people. We have self-respect. We think that dignity is beyond everything. And the Israeli government hurts our dignity.

MH: Outside the mood of the people is anti-government, and this government looks set to fall. How do you think the people will react if the government gives in to Israeli pressure, and declares the Flotilla illegal?

EP: We are sure that the Greek people will not accept any action that will put obstacles in the way of our project, because they supported our project. Our project is among the most grass-rooted of campaigns, regarding all the partners that worked together to build the Flotilla II. The Greek people will not accept any kind of interference, and they will not accept any subordination from our government.

The government is under immense economic pressure, which was started by global markets. We think that if the government wants to avoid more pressure from society, because you realize that within Greek society something is rising, they have to avoid putting obstacles against us. If not it will be a problem. Greek society will react.

MH: What about the States? Israel might put pressure on the Greeks, but economically, they're not really a key partner. Are the States acting along with Israel?

EP: The States are also putting pressure on the Greek government. But from our side it just shows how contradictory it is what they try to do now. Yesterday there was a statement from the European Parliament where they accuse us...They say what we do is provocative and we are putting pressure on the Israeli government, and we have to do it in other ways...but at the end, what do they say? That the embargo is illegal.

So if they realize that the embargo is illegal, and if also they realize that they are illegal, these governments, that they are illegal towards their society if they do nothing...if they don't act, if they don't do what they would do in other cases. How can they send a message to us? How can they ask us to accept this kind of legality? We are doing what is legal and we are doing what this government should (be doing).

MH: Speaking of legality, is Gaza a legal port? How do we circumvent that, and still go through the proper Greek channels, which seems important to do at this phase?

EP: Gaza is a legal port, but according to the European technical specifications, this port is not suitable to those regulations. This is the reason that Gaza Port is not classified as a port in the Mediterranean sea. Gaza Port as a destination, is a problem.

Gaza as a state, as a destination, is acceptable. But for our trip, for our captains, for the legal papers of our itinerary, they cannot write explicitly Gaza Port. But this problem shows the high level of hypocrisy. The EU, after the Oslo agreements, financed a new port for Gaza. The financing was there. The plans are there. But they never constructed this port. Because Israel didn't allow it. They put pressure on them.

That's why the people in Gaza, more than 1.5 million of them, don't have a legal port, which is similar to ports in our country, and our country is not among the more rich countries in the world. Most of our islands, that have two or three thousand people, have (a similar port). This shows the discrimination and racism of this policy.

MH: Any message for the Greeks in Canada?

EP: I can address a message to the Greeks living in Canada asking them to be close, not only to Greece, but to the Mediterranean sea as a free sea and as a peaceful sea. Because they know the relations they have with all these people. It is an historical area and for more than 5,000 years we've sailed (there). I think that most (Canadian Greeks) are coming from Greek Islands, and they have this feeling of open seas. And I am sure they will have this sensitivity, and that they will support our project.

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