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Bankruptcy is avoided amid rioting in Greece

Greece on Wednesday fended off a bankruptcy that threatened to roil global financial markets, approving severe spending cuts and tax increases in the face of violent protests by citizens who say they have suffered enough.

The package of austerity measures would keep bailout money flowing to Greece from the rest of the world. It would free $17 billion in fresh loans, although the money will only be enough to see the nation through September.

Investors around the world cheered the news, but protesters, fighting tear gas, hurled whatever they could find at riot police and tried to blockade the Parliament building.

"This is bad. The country will be sold for a piece of bread," said insurer Dimitris Kostopoulos. "There were many other more appropriate alternatives to this. Parliament has once again betrayed us."

Public-sector salaries and pensions have been cut in the last year, and unemployment is above 16 percent. By comparison, it is about about 9 percent in the United States.

Parliament approved $40 billion in tax increases and spending cuts, and privatization of public services to raise $71 billion more, all through 2015. Greece's overall economic output is about $330 billion, or roughly the size of Washington State's. The $17 billion in loans are the latest batch in a $157 billion bailout by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Without the bailout money, Greece was at risk of default. While no one knows for sure what would have happened next, analysts have said that it would have threatened the viability of the euro, the EU's common currency, and could have done much worse.

Some market experts had predicted that a Greek default could have triggered another world financial meltdown, similar to what happened after the Lehman Brothers investment house collapsed in 2008 in the United States.

More protests could undermine the government's ability to implement the severe austerity measures, which tax even the lowest-paid Greeks and raise prices during a recession.

The cuts and tax increases passed, 155-138, with five lawmakers voting "present" and backing neither side. During the vote, stun grenades echoed across a square outside Parliament. Acrid clouds of tear gas and orange and green mist from smoke bombs hung in the air.

Several banks and storefronts incurred damage, while a Socialist dissenter who backed the government at the last minute, Alexandros Athanassiadis, was briefly assaulted by protesters after leaving Parliament on foot.

Violence continued throughout the afternoon, and smoke billowed from a post office beneath the Finance Ministry before a fire was put out. Rioters set up burning barricades along Syntagma Square, where demonstrators have staged a sit-in for the last month. Nearby streets were littered with chunks of smashed marble and ripped-up paving stones that had been thrown at police.

A general strike that began Tuesday paralyzed the country.

By Wednesday night, police said 49 officers had been injured, one seriously when he was hit in the face by a chunk of marble. Forty-three protesters were detained, with 17 of them arrested. Emergency services personnel reported treating 99 protesters and passers-by for injuries.

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