Riots, anger as Germany's Merkel visits Athens

(CBS News) One of the big fears on Wall Street and the global financial market is that Greece won't be able to pay its debts.

Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel flew to Athens to show support for the Greek government and to make sure it goes ahead with severe budget cuts.

Her official welcome was dignified, with all the usual state-visit trappings.

Her unofficial welcome, however, was angry and laced with uncomfortable imagery of what many Greeks think of the German leader. No insult was spared in protest signs and banners.

Merkel is being called the most despised person in Greece. She's insisted to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras that European bailout money that is keeping Greece afloat only be paid if the government continues to make severe cuts in jobs, services and pensions.

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Merkel told the Greeks she understood their suffering.

They told her -- in their tens of thousands -- that they'd suffered enough. Most of the demonstrators were peaceful.

Some were not. And Athens once more became a battleground of flying bricks and tear gas.

The confrontation between hardcore demonstrators and police was minor by local standards. The confrontation between Greece and its harsh economic realities is harsher will go a lot longer.

Panagiotis Lanaros is not a man prone to demonstrate. A 73-year-old former construction worker, he lives on a pension that's already been cut by 20 percent to about $13,000 a year.

It's not enough for him and his wife to live on, let alone to help his now unemployed daughter Joanna and her family.

Joanna told CBS News she thinks this will get worse and that she worries about the future of her children "very much."

The Greeks are hoping for another $17 billion bailout from international leaders in the upcoming weeks -- that's part of the reason Merkel visited Athens. But they will have to satisfy Merkel, the European Uniion and the International Monetary fund by promising to make severe cuts in spending.

Families are concerned that this is perpetual increasing misery.

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips returned to the CBS News London bureau as a correspondent in 1993. He has covered many major stories since then, including the war in the Balkans, the death of Princess Diana and the weapons inspection conflicts in Iraq.

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