World·Video

Athens graffiti illustrate outrage at economic plight

One of the most obvious signs of people’s discontent – and their suffering – can be found on the graffiti-filled streets of Athens. Street art is booming. Unfortunately it doesn’t pay much.

Artists such as Cacao Rocks blame government, IMF for unemployment, poverty

Graffiti in Greece highlights economic woes

8 years ago
Duration 1:52
BC's Margaret Evans tours the slogan-filled streets of Athens, where people are tagging walls to protest economic woes

It's been more than five years since Greece struck its first bailout deal with the European Union and its international partners in exchange for serious structural reform to its economy.

The government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, elected in January on a pledge to renegotiate the terms of its loan repayment deals and to reject austerity, is involved in talks for yet another bailout, and under tremendous pressure to live up to its promise.

With the unemployment rate hovering near 25 per cent, this is a country fraying at the centre, never mind the edges.

Austerity measures demanded by Greece's creditors are prime targets for street artists such as Cacao Rocks. (CBC News)

One of the most obvious signs of people's discontent — and their suffering — can be found on the slogan-filled streets of Athens. Street art is booming. Unfortunately it doesn't pay much.

"People don't have jobs, especially young people like me," says Cacao Rocks, 30, who uses derelict buildings as his canvases.

"It's not that we're not educated," he told CBC News. "It's not our fault, it's the government's fault and the International Monetary Fund's fault. They care about saving the banks, and the people are starving."

German Prime Minister Angela Merkel is a favourite target for the anti-austerity street artists in Athens. (Ellen Mauro/CBC News)

One of Rocks's murals shows a giant set of scissors with a message to Greece's creditors that reads "Cut the Debt." Another is of a pair of glasses aimed at Germany saying "This is not Berlin."

The street artist, who studied French literature, lives in the basement of a friendly gallery that's allowed him to stay there instead of living on the street.

"We don't want capitalism anymore," Rocks said. "I don't know what we want, but the system doesn't work very well."

Rocks illustrates the disaffection and confusion his generation is feeling, but people of all ages are struggling in Greece. Forty-five per cent of retirees now live below established European Union poverty levels, and unemployment is endemic. An estimated 250,000 businesses have closed since the start of the financial crisis.

As well, hospitals are running out of drugs and equipment.

Without more rescue loans, Greece could default on its debts and eventually drop out of Europe's currency bloc. Greece must repay about €1.6 billion euros ($2.2 billion) to the IMF this month, with the first instalment of €303 million due Friday.

Cutbacks demanded by Greece's creditors draw fire from street artists like Cacao Rocks. (CBC News)

With files from The Associated Press

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