A few miles from Syntagma Square, in the down-at-heel neighborhood of Omonia, Vasilius Papadimitriou, a 52-year-old taxi driver and a member of the Communist Party, remained defiant about last night’s milestone. “It’s not a deadline for us,” he said. “It’s a deadline for [the IMF] because it will lose billions.”
Still, Greeks on both sides of the bailout debate are quick to point out the country’s responsibility in its financial downfall.
“Greeks are more angry than they should be,” said Kotsalis. “The same people who are now screaming are the same people who took money from Europe.”
Vasily Frantzis, a 44-year-old lawyer who intends to vote a “big fat ‘No’” in Sunday’s referendum, said blame for last night’s unprecedented missed payment should be shared with austerity proponents.
“We have to make reforms in the public sector, of course, but not under choking circumstances, because that just doesn’t work,” he said, standing on the unusually quiet promenade of Aiolou. “It’s not this government’s fault that it has come to this. It’s the general austerity policies of the European community that have come to a dead end.”
Greece’s debt load stands at about 300 billion euros ($330 billion), or 180 percent of GDP. With the late payment, the country is considered in arrears and, pending another agreement, may not borrow additional funds from the organization. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank still has a funding arrangement with Greece, with a 3.5 billion euro payment due in less than three weeks causing additional concern.
Frantzis expressed lingering anger at a 2013 admission by the IMF that it underestimated the damage that austerity would cause to Greece’s economy and that 90 percent of bailout funds went to servicing previous loans instead of to Greek coffers.
“We have the IMF saying that it made mistakes in calculating the effects of austerity to people losing jobs and committing suicide … This is not about helping or sustaining a country. It’s about getting money to the banks,” he said, “which for me is inconceivable, unethical and the worst kind of war. This is wartime. It’s just financial war.”
With banks closed and a daily withdrawal cap of 60 euros in place since Monday, Greeks are already feeling the consequences of missing the payment. As bailout proposals and referendum plans change hourly here, most are unsure what happens next, but few remain optimistic.
“There are consequences for everyone,” said Ravos, a “yes” campaigner. “Especially the unlucky ones who do not have a job and do not have access to basic needs.”