A Greek pensioner shot himself dead in the busiest public square in Athens during Wednesday morning’s “rush hour,” leaving a note that police said linked his suicide with the country’s acute financial woes.
The 77-year-old drew a handgun and shot himself in the head near a busy subway exit in central Syntagma Square, reportedly yelling, “so I won’t leave debts for my children!”
The square, opposite Greece’s Parliament, is a focal point for public protests against the government’s austerity cuts.
Business Insider is reporting that the retired pharmacist left a suicide note railing against the government and calling on fellow Greeks to take up arms:
The Tsolakoglou government has annihilated all traces for my survival, which was based on a very dignified pension that I alone paid for 35 years with no help from the state. And since my advanced age does not allow me a way of dynamically reacting (although if a fellow Greek were to grab a Kalashnikov, I would be right behind him), I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life, so I don’t find myself fishing through garbage cans for my sustenance. I believe that young people with no future, will one day take up arms and hang the traitors of this country at Syntagma square, just like the Italians did to Mussolini in 1945
Soon after the suicide, about a dozen written messages had been pinned to the tree under which the man shot himself, some reading “It was a murder, not a suicide,” and “Austerity kills.”
Government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis described the incident as “a human tragedy,” but said it should not become part of political debate.
“I don’t know the exact circumstances that led that man to his act,” Kapsis said at a daily press briefing. “[But] I believe we must all remain calm and show respect for the true events, which we do not yet fully know.”
Greece has relied on international rescue loans since May 2010. To secure them, Athens implemented austerity measures, slashing pensions and salaries while repeatedly raising taxes.
Still, one in five Greeks is currently unemployed, and suicide rates are up 40% in 2011 from 2010.
The Associated Press contributed to this report