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IMF chief Christine Lagarde retreats from comments that Greeks are tax dodgers


International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde at a G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting event in Mexico City, on February 25, 2012.


Ronaldo Schemidt

IMF chief Christine Lagarde has retreated from her remarks branding Greeks tax dodgers after thousands of angry messages were posted on her Facebook site, the Telegraph reported today.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper published Saturday, the head of the International Monetary Fund said she had more sympathy for poor children in Africa than the Greek people, and that Greeks should help themselves by paying taxes.

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"I have them in my mind all the time. Because I think they need even more help than the people in Athens," Lagarde was quoted as saying.

Greeks around the world responded angrily, posting more than 12,500 messages on Lagarde's Facebook page calling her comments “insulting” and “unfair”.

“You should be ashamed!!! You drive a big culture into disaster... you have totally no idea how the Greek people live now due to your measures,” wrote Sofi Dimopoulou.

Lagarde’s remarks also upset Greek politicians, who are back on the campaign trail ahead of next month's elections. 

Greek Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos accused Lagarde of "insulting the Greek people" and of trying to “humiliate” the country, which will hold a second election in as many months on June 17, the Economic Times reported.

According to CBC News, Alexis Tsipras, whose left-wing, anti-austerity Syriza party is one of the top two contenders in the election seen as crucial to the country’s future in the euro zone, said: "Greek workers pay their taxes, which are unbearable."

Lagarde later wrote on her Facebook page that she “very sympathetic to the Greek people and the challenges they are facing” but that “everyone should carry their fair share of the burden, especially the most privileged and especially in terms of paying their taxes.”

The IMF has said it has no plans to soften austerity demands to which Greece agreed in return for a multi-billion euro bailout, despite sometimes violent street protests in the debt-laden country and fears that it could abandon the euro zone.

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