SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras defended his trip to the United States, which included a speech at the respected Brookings Institution in Washington and a meeting with one of the International Monetary Fund’s top officials, as an opportunity to convey his message “without the distorting lens of mediators.”
Speaking at Columbia University in New York on Thursday, Tsipras said that Greece’s crisis had not been caused by high public spending but as a result of low revenues because governments allowed tax evasion and failed to target wealthy Greeks. He praised the USA’s reaction to the fallout from its financial crisis and compared it to the eurozone’s decision to rely on austerity, which he criticized.
“Our trip to the USA has already proved useful for us and for others who had heard about SYRIZA from third parties and now had the opportunity to hear from us directly,” he said.
However, Tsipras’s absence from Greece meant he missed the clash with the government over the metro workers’ strike. In his absence, the party’s reaction to the coalition’s handling of the protest proved varied.
“They acted during the night like a parliamentary junta with the methods of martial law,” said SYRIZA MP Panayiotis Lafazanis, who leads the left wing of the party. His colleague Giorgos Stathakis took a more moderate line. “The metro workers deserved better treatment than authoritarianism and brutal austerity.”
Tsipras’s return to Athens will see him have to deal with the implications for SYRIZA from the transit strike and possible differences of opinion within his party.