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Feb 23

‘I won’t pay’ movement spreads across Greece

In light of austerity measures, citizens ignore tolls, transit ticket costs, even bills for healthcare

By ELENA BECATOROS

ATHENS, Greece — They blockade highway toll booths to give drivers free passage. They cover subway ticket machines with plastic bags so commuters can’t pay. Even doctors are joining in, preventing patients from paying fees at state hospitals.

Some call it civil disobedience. Others a freeloading spirit. Either way, Greece’s “I Won’t Pay” movement has sparked heated debate in a nation reeling from a debt crisis that’s forced the government to take drastic austerity measures — including higher taxes, wage and pension cuts, and price spikes in public services.

What started as a small pressure group of residents outside Athens angered by higher highway tolls has grown into a movement affecting ever more sectors of society — one that many say is being hijacked by left-wing parties keen to ride popular discontent.

A rash of political scandals in recent years, including a dubious land swap deal with a rich monastery and alleged bribes in state contracts — has fueled the rebellious mood.

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