“Has there ever been a demonstration where people chanted the name of a finance minister? This must be a world first!” says the ironic Xenia, a 53-year-old woman who has been shouting for several minutes, with thousands of demonstrators, the now omnipresent name in Athens: “Yanis Varoufakis, Yanis Varoufakis, Yanis Varoufakis!”
“Look, get this straight: I did not vote for SYRIZA. I’m not a leftist. But last Friday I saw a minister who dared to tell the Troika what a majority of Greeks were thinking: We are sick of you.”
“I thought that SYRIZA would do what all the governments have: kneel before the Germans as soon as they come to power. They haven’t done that. And as long as they don’t, they will have my full support.”
Among the youngest demonstrators, many of whom participated in protests three years ago, what was most remarked on was the absence of police: “That Syntagma Square is full and yet we are not surrounded by anti-riot police and enveloped by tear gas. . . . I don’t know, like I’m not sure if this isn’t a dream,” commented Dimitrios between laughs.
“Right now we are in a zone that people had been prohibited from entering till a week ago.” Dimitrios is referring to the side of the square that gives access to the parliament. Under the last government, headed by Antonio Samaras, the parliament was enclosed by barriers to keep out protesters. Removing those barriers was one of Alexis Tsipras’ first gestures after winning the elections.
Evangelos, a friend of Dimitrios’, adds: “You are a Spaniard. You gotta tell all the Spaniards that we need your support. In Germany they must know that all the peoples of the south are united.”
Laughter, optimism, and national pride were in the air breathed in this afternoon in Syntagma Square. Popular support for Varoufakis and Tsipras has increased in response to the government’s first gestures. But this euphoria can also turn against them if they fail to deliver on their promise.
Over the last few days much has been said about Germany and the ECB. But there is another crucial actor in the negotiations: a majority of the Greek people, who now believe in their government.
Alberto Sicilia is a theoretical physicist and blogger. Follow Sicilia on Twitter @pmarsupia. The original article “Miles de griegos salen a la calle… y corean a su Ministro de Finanzas” was published in his blog Principia Marsupia on 5 February 2015. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com).