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An 11th-hour attempt by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to extend its debt bailout failed to stop the country from becoming the first developed nation to miss a payment to the IMF. In Athens, thousands rallied outside Parliament, urging a yes vote in the upcoming national referendum on working out a deal and staying in the Eurozone. Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports.
A late attempt by the prime minister of Greece failed to stop the country from being the first ever developed nation to miss a payment it owes to the International Monetary Fund.
PBS NewsHour special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports from Athens, where anxiety ruled the day.
Tempers were running high on the front lines in Athens, the bank machines where pensioners and others waited again for hours to get the equivalent of $67.
TITOS ALIKAMPIOTIS (through interpreter):
We cannot go on with our daily business. These 60 euros are not enough to feed the family. The situation is very bad.
And it may well get worse. The finance minister confirmed that Greece is defaulting on a nearly $1.9 billion repayment to the International Monetary Fund that was due today. Instead, he emphasized Sunday's referendum on whether to accept more austerity measures as the price of a new bailout.
YANIS VAROUFAKIS, Finance Minister, Greece (through interpreter):
The most important thing at this time is to secure with sobriety and harmony the right of the Greek people to express themselves on Sunday in the referendum.
This evening, thousands rallied outside Parliament, urging a yes-vote, in favor of working out a deal and staying in the Eurozone.
What we need now, as Greeks, is a determined government to negotiate, agree with the creditors and promote prosperity, growth and hope. Hope is what the Greeks need, and I think that staying in the euro is the only way of empowering hope.
Even now, at the 11th hour, the government of Alexis Tsipras is putting forth new proposals to try to satisfy its international creditors. It wants to extend the bailout under new conditions.
It's the latest curve ball from a government which has irritated the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. But the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has made it clear that there will be no more negotiations with Greece until its referendum on Sunday.
It was widely reported that Prime Minister Tsipras wants a two-year extension of bailout funding, but that he offered no new economic reforms to satisfy creditors. Opposition lawmakers in the Greek Parliament said the onus is on Tsipras to find a way out.
VASSILIS ECONOMOU, New Democracy Party (through interpreter):
I think today is the last chance for the government and Prime Minister Tsipras specifically to ensure a smooth and normal way forward. Starting tomorrow, things will get very difficult. And the responsibility can only be attributed to MR. Tsipras and his party.
But, outwardly at least, government supporters voiced confidence that all will be well.
NIKOS NIKOLOPOULOS, Independent Greeks Party (through interpreter):
I am certain that every day that dawns brings us closer, rather than further with Europe, because our home is the same. It is common and our home is Europe. I am therefore certain that the creditors realize, minute by minute, the importance of staying together and not divorcing.
As the politicians debate, the fear among average Greeks is palpable. In the home of Byron Riginos, a retiree, the television is always on, with its never-ending diet of bad news.
Today, I would describe as D-Day for Greece. D-Day could take on the notion of destruction, demolition, depletion of cash into the ATMs and to the banks. D-Day can have many meanings. But the gist of it is that we are about to lose our country and to exit the Eurozone and the European Union. And this is something unbelievable.
Others, like Dimitris Papazimouris, face a potential future with no job. He's already lost 70 percent of his salary at an advertising firm since the crisis began.
I'm terrified. I'm actually terrified. I think we're taking a very dangerous turn, which I couldn't imagine that we would end up where we are today. It's a European country and it's heading towards the fourth world.
All of this is being watched closely in Washington, where President Obama sought today to play down the potential effects on the U.S.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
For the American people, this is not something that we believe will have a major shock to the system. But, obviously, it's very painful for the Greek people. And it can have a significant effect on growth rates in Europe.
Tonight, a conference call of European finance ministers ended with officials saying only that they will have another call tomorrow morning.
For the PBS NewsHour, this is Malcolm Brabant in Athens.
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