Διαφωνεί με τον γιό της και πρώην πρωθυπουργό της Ελλάδας, Γιώργο Παπανδρέου για τους όρους με τους οποίους δανείστηκε η Ελλάδα και η θέση της πηγαίνει λίγο πιο κοντά σ’ εκείνη του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ.
“Αντί να δανειζόμαστε για να πληρώνουμε τα χρέη μας θα έπρεπε να πληρώσουμε μόνο ότι θα ερχόταν η ανάπτυξη ξανά στην οικονομία μας”, λέει η κα Παπανδρέου.
Λέει επίσης ότι σκοπεύει να καταθέσει μηνύσεις εναντίον του ΠΡΩΤΟΥ ΘΕΜΑΤΟΣ αλλά και της εφημερίδας ΤΟ ΒΗΜΑ.
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ΟΛΗ Η ΕΠΙΣΤΟΛΗ
Over a month ago as I was climbing out of bed, my cell phone rang. The voice said, “Margarita, there are articles in To Vima and Proto Thema about you. Have you seen them?” I had stopped reading Greek newspapers or listening to Greek TV newscasts because they kept telling lies, and spewing out hatred, fear and anxiety. I don’t want this rage and bleakness in my heart. I know we are better than that. The caller told me that I was supposedly holding an account in Switzerland amounting to $ 550m dollars!
I shouted, “Is this a joke?”
“You are on the Lagarde list,” the phone caller added. Christine Lagarde is the managing director of the International Monetary Fund and former French finance minister. The list was for uncovering tax-evasion accounts of Greeks, and had been handed over to the “black money” unit of the Greek government for investigation. It was from this unit that bases most of its information on sheer gossip that my name was released to the newspapers. I responded, “Holy Cow,” using the slang of my childhood generation. “Another big lie!”
I have had a number of unexpected events in my life, in fact, I probably should be on Ripley’s list. I was the daughter-in-law of a Greek prime minister, the wife of a Greek prime minister and the mother of a Greek prime minister. My name is Margarita Papandreou. It used to be Margaret Chant, child of a working class family from Elmhurst, Illinois. Perhaps it is not so strange that an American woman became First Lady of Greece. It is consistent with the American dream mentality – a kind of rags to riches story. But I never contemplated the riches that were now assigned to me!
I have been described as having high ambitions though. Once in a journey back to my home town as First Lady, I was interviewed by a young journalist from the Chicago Tribune. It was to be “a local girl makes good” story. His first question was “as a little girl running across the plains of Illinois, did you ever dream that you would be the wife of the prime minister of Greece?” When I was that age I didn’t even know Greece existed, nor was I contemplating marriage to anybody. I replied with mock seriousness, “ I dreamt I would BE the prime minister of Greece.”
This revelation was picked up by Greek newspapers, and soon I was charged with having ravenous ambitions, of training Greek women to deny their cultural upbringing and heritage (this referred to my founding of a grassroots feminist organisation), and that the prime minister must put strong shackles on me. It was an early lesson on the use and misuse of humor in public life. Or, at least, my type of humour.
Soon after the phone call from my friend, I had one of the Sunday papers in my hand. There it was, with a fairly nice photo of me, “Mother of George Papandreou involved in Lagarde list.” The second title next to my photo was “as beneficiary of a $ 550m account”.
For quite a while now the Papandreou family has been targeted as the vulture of the entire economic crisis in Greece. The more specific target has been my son George, who, as head of the government, took a loan from the International Monetary Fund – a move that was critical to avoid declaring bankruptcy. He also started the reforms that were needed to bring us out of the crisis.
These included crackdowns on foreign accounts. Over 54,000 have been found with more money than they can account for. Rather than applaud, the reformer is being called to task. As life worsened, as jobs got lost, as salaries got cut and as pensions were chopped, there apparently had to be a boogey man, a scapegoat, or in this case, a whole family.
Logical? No. But a population hurting, homeless and hungry, is unlikely to use logic in explaining fate. And the newspapers loved to play it up as well. My name had not yet been attacked. Now, it seems, was my turn.
I tried to consider what I would do, what my reaction should be to this absolutely untrue charge. Then I got to thinking, dreaming maybe, what could I do for Greece if I had that kind of money? Before I looked at the revenge or attack option,
I let my mind wander, imagining different choices. I am an economist only through osmosis. My husband Andreas was head of the department of economics at the University of California at Berkeley. In addition to developing one of the best departments of economics, in competition with the one at Harvard, he was considered a member of the group of top American economists: Galbraith, Samuelson, Kaysen, Tobin, and others.
Something rubbed off on me. Yet I am still an amateur at putting all the pieces together and understanding the vocabulary … flogged toxic financial derivatives, financial cliff, robo signing, expansionary fiscal expansion, austerity. Ah, that last one I know. We are living it today. I used to like that word when I thought it meant self-restraint, simplicity and self-discipline. As a child it fit my own developing philosophy. It comes from the word “austere”, and the synonyms for that word describe the situation our citizens confront today: harsh, relentless, morose, severe punishment. That last one is it. We are being punished. Not for something we have done – although we are part of the problem, but for a system, the capitalist system gone awry. Or maybe just doing its thing: exploiting the majority so the few at the top can get rich.
I am not going to analyse all of this. I leave that up to the professionals. But what I do know is that the austerity path does not work. And what makes eminent sense to me is that you can’t ask a country to pay back its debt and then rope its body. Let’s say as an illustration that a divorced father does not pay for a child’s care. You put him in jail, cutting him off from a job that provides income, and until he pays, he can’t come out. Does that make sense? On the austerity train, every shop that is obliged to close puts its employees on the bread line. Every new tax declared takes food from the mouth of a baby. And most of that money comes from the lower and middle classes. Now I am Margaret Chant, the 15-year-old after school waitress, the bus girl in the cafeteria of the University of Minnesota’s Student Union, the riveter in the Douglas Aircraft factory during the war, and I am crying out along with my fellow citizens, WHY US?
To return to my fantasy, with the money under my name, I would invest in growth, in the country’s future. I would propose a national development plan that would take advantage of our natural and human resources. It will have a vision, for example that our country becomes the center of health in the world. Instead of getting foreign money to pay back our debt, we will pay only when our economy is booming again. And I would be severe on reforms and needed changes of our institutions. I would demand a national audit to know where indeed people have lots of money.
As for me and the charge against me, I have two choices. I could start running over the plains, the mountains, and sea of this exceptionally beautiful country, with its exceptionally warm-hearted people singing a song from my native country’s 1950’s collection of music – “Make the World Go Away, (get off my shoulders),” though at 89 years of age and a serious fall a few years ago it is difficult for me to run anymore. Or I could sue for slander those who constructed this monstrous story.
My choice is the latter.
* Margarita Papandreou is a former first lady of Greece. She contributed this personal perspective to EnetEnglish, has written a book, Nightmare in Athens, about the 1967-74 Greek dictatorship, and is now writing a memoir