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Fear and loathing in Nicosia

Patrick Henningsen is a writer, investigative journalist, and filmmaker and founder of the news website 21stCentury Wire.com.

Published time: March 30, 2013 18:04
A woman withdraws money from the ATM of a Laiki bank branch on March 30, 2013 in Nicosia.(AFP Photo / Patrick Baz)

In approximately three weeks’ time, the island of Cyprus will begin receiving its annual cash injection - from holiday tourism. That's what's known as a 'good injection'.

After only a day here, it's become very clear that the people of Cyprus are very concerned, some even scared - about a financial contagion and shock treatment which threatens their future prosperity.

Soon, they will get another 'bad' injection, which we are told will be deadly. So we are treating this like a crime scene.  The next injection will be administered by 'Dr Troika'. Just utter his name in public here and you will see wrinkles in people's faces.

Dr Troika's injection is the equivalent, in economic terms, to an experimental vaccine - designed to treat a financial contagion which originated in Greece and Wall Street. It is certain to provoke an auto-immune reaction.

The people of Cyprus did not ask for this, yet, they are being forced to take it by the mad economic doctors in Brussels, Berlin and the IMF. It's the sort of bad medicine that the banking syndicates and corrupt officials have been administering for a while now, in order to take down governments and economies all over the globe with devastating effect.

People queue up outside a Laiki bank branch in the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, on March 28, 2013.(AFP Photo / Patrick Baz)

I arrived in Cyprus on Wed night, and headed in to the capital city of Nicosia with my colleague Jason Liosatos, in order to further document what many were expecting to be a run on the island's banks at 12pm after 12 days of closed doors to hundreds of thousands of residents whose savings has been locked inside the banks during the extended "bank holiday". This particular 'holiday' will go down in history as one of the worst on record.

The lines began forming around 11am, but to everyone's surprise - except the Cypriots' of course, the lines were not as long as many expected, and not as long as the corporate mainstream media expected either, most of whom were hoping for a fight in front of both the old town's Bank of Cyprus (good bank) and Laiki Banks (bad bank) branches.

The majority of those queuing were older people, but these included many of the top depositors whose life savings have been clipped by the Troika.

We asked around and quickly learned why the Cypriots did not all rush the bank on Thurs at high noon. Many residents told us that there was a community feeling that islanders did not want to stress the Bank of Cyprus by storming its branches. Strict capital controls have been put into place to slow the cash haemorrhaging this week, with most residents restricted to 300 euros per day, for seven days, followed by an official assessment of the situation.

There's a lot of talk of Cyprus's potential riches from untapped gas and oil, and many residents believe the bankers have taken down the economy here in order to exchange the island's future riches for a series of expensive (if not utterly debilitating) ECB and IMF loans. But that's still a ways off, and more pressing matters are salary cuts, pension cuts, a flight of wealth off of the island, and of course - the fact that people's money is being literally stolen from their accounts.

A man with a parrot on his head is seen outside a Bank of Cyprus branch in the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, on March 28, 2013.(AFP Photo / Yiannis Kourtoglou)

When elites go to war, and fight their financial battles, it seems that the only victims are the average mom and pop. After meeting 5 or six local residents and business owners, it became abundantly clear that even the street sweepers knew that a criminal banking syndicate had held a gun to their heads and then stolen their money in broad daylight.

A retired resident, Mr Andreas, explained also, "We Cypriots have dignity. I have had only 3 euros in my pocket for the last week - enough only to buy a cup of coffee, but I will not line up today and beg the Troika for my daily withdrawl of 300 euros."

He adds, "Our friends in Europe have treated us like gangsters and criminals. Our government leaders have made mistakes, yes. But why are we being forced to pay? It's blackmail. This is stealing from the people, that's all."

Not surprisingly, there were no Russian Oligarchs waiting to get inside any of the island's branches on Thursday, many of them apparently withdrew their money from still open Russian branches of Laiki and Cyprus banks - at the same time that the banks in Cyprus were shut.

Mr Kiriakos, a local bar owner lamented over a beer with us before closing shop, explaining the reality of this latest banker-led heist in Cyprus. "I've been working all my life - 30 years, so I can send my daughters to university and give them a better life than I had, and they can just come and take that money? They are running a big casino, when they win they put the money in their pockets, but if they lose they take the money out of our pockets."

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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