With just two days to go to Sunday’s bailout referendum, Greeks are debating whether the drachma could return – many see the choice as between staying in the 19-member eurozone or leaving it.
The small Arcadian village of Karitaina in was pictured on the 5,000 bill of Greece’s former currency, the drachma. Residents – most of them pensioners or unemployed – who once sat on different sides of the village cafe because of partisan politics, are now more divided than ever.
Sunday’s referendum in Greece could be the most important in the country’s modern history, but the question is unclear and many voters are confused about what’s at stake. Retired journalist Ilias Tsarbopoulos says the question being asked of the people of Greece is “a travesty.”
“A person who doesn’t know much, will not know what to vote. But for those who know, and it’s not like you have to know a lot, they are leading us to the drachma, it’s the so-called drachma lobby, or Europe,” he says.
Fifty-five-year old Ioannis Psilas, along with his 30-year-old son, has been unemployed since 2012. An importer of German cars, his company was closed down when banks stopped lending him money, leaving him with a mountain of bankruptcy fees he says he will never be able to repay. He feels resentment towards the governments that signed Greece’s two bailout packages and says he would vote “200 times ‘No'” in the referendum.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called the referendum last weekend, asking Greeks to decide whether to accept creditors’ proposals for more austerity in exchange for more loans – even though those proposals are no longer on the table. Tsipras is advocating a “no” vote, saying it would put him in a stronger negotiating position to seek a better deal for Greece within the eurozone. Opposition parties, and many European officials, say a “no” vote would drive Greece out of the euro and into an even more impoverished future.
* One of the oldest currencies in world, earliest unit about 500 BCE.
* Name comes from verb meaning “to grasp” a handful of oboloí or metal sticks used as currency as early as 1100 BC. (See left illustration by Odysses)
* Became means of payment throughout Mediterranean, circulating as far as India.
* Disappeared from use, and then reintroduced in 1832 as national currency after independence from Ottoman Empire.
* Suffered great hyperinflation in World War II and post war. Faced devaluation from 1974 onwards. Replaced in 2002 with the Euro.
* Greek finance minister said Friday country can’t reinstate drachma because there are no printing presses.
Source: Greek Reporter
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