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Greece Has Defaulted – Which Country In Europe Is Next?

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Well, it is official.  The restructuring deal between Greece and private investors has been pushed through and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association has ruled that this is a credit event which will trigger credit-default swap contracts.  The ISDA is saying that there are approximately $3.2 billion in credit-default swap contracts on Greek debt outstanding, and most analysts expect that the global financial system will be able to absorb these losses.  But still, 3.2 billion dollars is nothing to scoff at, and some of these financial institutions that wrote a lot of these contracts on Greek debt are going to be hurting.  This deal with private investors may have “rescued” Greece for the moment, but the consequences of this deal are going to be felt for years to come.  For example, now that Greece has gotten a sweet “haircut” from private investors, politicians in Portugal, Italy, Spain and other European nations are going to wonder why they shouldn’t get some “debt forgiveness” too.  Also, private investors are almost certainly going to be less likely to want to loan money to European nations from now on.  If they will be required to take a massive haircuts at some point, then why in the world would they want to lend huge amounts of money to European governments at super low interest rates?  It simply does not make sense.  Now that Greece has defaulted, the whole game is going to change.  This is just the beginning.

The “restructuring deal” was approved by approximately 84 percent of all Greek bondholders, but the key to triggering the payouts on the credit-default swaps was the fact that Greece decided to activate the “collective action clauses” which had been retroactively inserted into these bonds.  These collective action clauses force most of the rest of the bondholders to go along with this restructuring deal.

A recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard explained why so many people were upset about these “collective action clauses”….

The Greek parliament’s retroactive law last month to insert collective action clauses (CACs) into its bonds to coerce creditor hold-outs has added a fresh twist. These CAC’s are likely to be activated over coming days. Use of retroactive laws to change contracts is anathema in credit markets.

If a government can go in and retroactively change the terms of a bond just before it is ready to default, then why should private investors invest in them?

That is a very good question.

But for now the buck has been passed on to those that issued the credit-default swaps.  As mentioned above, the ISDA says that there are approximately $3.2 billion in Greek credit-default swaps that will need to be paid out.

However, that number assumes that a lot of hedges and offsetting swaps cancel each other out.  When you just look at the raw total of swaps outstanding, the number is much, much higher.  The following is from a recent article in The Huffington Post….

If you remove all hedges and offsetting swaps, there’s about $70 billion in default-insurance exposure to Greece out there, which is a little bit bigger pill for the banking system to swallow. Is it possible that some banks won’t be able to pay on their default policies? We’ll find out.

Yes, indeed.  We will find out very soon.

If some counterparties are unable to pay we could soon see some big problems cascade through the financial system.

But even with this new restructuring deal with private investors, Greece is still in really bad shape.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters recently that it “would be a big mistake to think we are out of the woods”.

Even with this new deal, Greek debt is still projected to be only reduced to 120 percent of GDP by the year 2020.  And that number relies on projections that are almost unbelievably optimistic.

In addition, there are still a whole host of very strict conditions that the Greek government must meet in order to continue getting bailout money.

Also, the upcoming Greek elections in just a few weeks could bring this entire process to an end in just a single day.

So the crisis in Greece is a long way from over.

The Greek economy has been in recession for five years in a row and it continues to shrink at a frightening pace.  Greek GDP was 7.5 percent smaller during the 4th quarter of 2011 than it was during the 4th quarter of 2010.

Unemployment in Greece also continues to get worse.

The average unemployment rate in Greece in 2010 was 12.5 percent.  During 2011, the average unemployment rate was 17.3 percent, and in December the unemployment rate in Greece was 21.0 percent.

Young people are getting hit the hardest.  The youth unemployment rate in Greece is up to an all-time record of 51.1 percent.

The suicide rate in Greece is also at an all-time record high.

Unfortunately, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for Greece at this point.  The latest round of austerity measures that are now being implemented will slow the economy down even more.

Sadly, several other countries in Europe are going down the exact same road that Greece has gone.

Investors all over the globe are wondering which one will be the “next Greece”.

Some believe that it will be Portugal.  The following is from a recent article in The Telegraph….

“The rule of law has been treated with contempt,” said Marc Ostwald from Monument Securities. “This will lead to litigation for the next ten years. It has become a massive impediment for long-term investors, and people will now be very wary about Portugal.”

Right now, the combination of all public and private debt in Portugal comes to a grand total of 360 percent of GDP.

In Greece, the combined total of all public and private debt is about 100 percentage points less than that.

So yes, Portugal is heading for a world of hurt.  The following is more about Portugal from the recent Telegraph article mentioned above….

Citigroup expects the economy to contract by 5.7pc this year, warning that bondholders may face a 50pc haircut by the end of the year. Portugal’s €78bn loan package from the EU-IMF Troika is already large enough to crowd out private creditors, reducing them to ever more junior status.

So why should anyone invest in Portuguese debt at this point?

Or Italian debt?

Or Spanish debt?

Or any European debt at all?

The truth is that the European financial system is a house of cards that could come crashing down at any time.

German economist Hans-Werner Sinn is even convinced that the European Central Bank itself could collapse.

There is a Der Spiegel article that everyone out there should read.  It is entitled “Euro-Zone Central Bank System Massively Imbalanced“. It is quite technical, but if this German economist is correct, the implications are staggering.

The following is from the first paragraph of the article….

More than a year ago, German economist Hans-Werner Sinn discovered a gigantic risk on the balance sheets of Germany’s central bank. Were the euro zone to collapse, Bundesbank losses could be half a trillion euros — more than one-and-a-half times the size of the country’s annual budget.

So no, the European debt crisis is not over.

It is just getting warmed up.

Get ready for a wild ride.

  • Darth Vader

    Re: CACs

    I’m altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it any further.

    • Michael


      I love the Star Wars reference. 🙂


  • knightowl77

    and yet….The Sun will rise again tomorrow….
    It is too soon to tell whether the economy circling the drain will accelerate, or stay just as weak as it has for awhile

    • JustanOguy

      In my experience with what I do… People that free themselves from debt have more income to spend in the future.

      I personally really don’t care if Investors who backed bad debt go broke. In the big scheme of things, it’s a VERY small part of the economy that fuels Main Street.

      If you are spending half of your income paying a note… that’s FAR too much money that could be better spent purchasing products from people who actually produce something.

      Personally… I just cashed out / bailed on my stocks. I’m taking the cash and investing in myself / local economy.

  • Rodster

    Well this should get interesting. Spain unions are threatening to strike. Looks like Spain has taken a page out of Scott Walker’s playbook.

    From the article:

    “The country’s borrowing costs have risen above Italy’s in recent weeks after Mr Rajoy announced that Spain would miss this year’s deficit reduction targets, which had been agreed with Brussels.”

    • JustanOguy

      Big deal…

      What does this mean to me? Nothing…

      Nobody from Spain buys my products anyways.

      The USSR, Argentina and Iceland went broke… did not make one IOTA of a difference to me or the vast majority of Americans.

      So what if Wall St. goes down.. Life where I live will continue.

  • Yet another warning to learn, prepare, and provision in order to live without money. Many will see the signs and go back to watching ESPN.

    What did you do this week to stake another step toward that goal?

  • Kevin2

    Americans sat back and wondered how can the Europeans get that much vacation, retire that early, have so much time off and generally just enjoy themselves. Not having to truly defend themselves extended the party. They might have prolonged the dream a while longer too until they exported their manufacturing to the developing world with “Free Trade”. The nexus of diminishing wealth creation coupled with too much debt overwhelmed the system. Other nations have a common theme and it will create a common result.

  • Cinderella Man

    Why should any private investor lend out money? To the US? To Spain? To Portugal? Must be crazy! This is a true test of the CDS, Now will we see if the banks can actually pay out, Like you said before Michael, this is the true threat to the global finanicial system. Will it all fall like a house of cards over the next few months? Or will we be able keep lying to the entire country and world by propping up our economy with false promises and fiat currency? We shall see soon!

    • Paul

      If as a private investor you lend money to a government you get paid or bailed out by the taxpayer 99.9 % of the time.

      Politicians don’t have to pay for their wrong decisions. They get paid, and like bankers, if they make huge mistakes they get the golden handshake and a pension of millions.

      Just look at Wulff in Germany. Accused of corruption, he had to step down and now he gets a pension until he dies, a car, some bodyguards and an office with secretary.

      He gets more in a month (paid by the taxpayer) than someone who worked 30 years and now lost his job 5 years before pension came up gets in a year.

  • Sgt shut up

    My question is what is the US banks exposure. Im afraid of the answer.

  • JR

    3.2 billion. What Jon Corzine calls “lost money,” and Michelle Obama calls “vacation money”

  • mark

    All of you bond holders out there, good luck. Remember, Obama screwed you with the GM deal. You got the shaft and the unions got the gravey. If they did that once and it worked, they will do it again when they need to get out of a tight spot. He has no respect for contracts.

  • Tappedops

    Not to jazz you Mr M… but the top story is Barry sending congress home indefinetly… and pronouncing the NAU (north amer/union)..(amerk/mex/can) is now under the power of the UN/Nato and the offshore banker cabal/fortune 50…

  • mondobeyondo

    “The sun will come up, tomorrow…
    Bet your bottom dollar we’ll be screwed….

    (Just skip the second verse and chorus!)

    Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya tomorrow,
    You’re only a day awaaayyyy….”

    Um, it’s closer than that.

  • mondobeyondo

    Wake me up when it’s over!!

    Oh hell, I can’t get to sleep! Gonna be up all night, again. So much for that dilemma.

  • Paranoid

    Am I the only one that thinks this is like arguing whose side of the lifeboat the leak is on? Greece cannot pay, reducing her debt today buy 100 billion and lending her 130 billion next week is going to help out just how? Knowing that the same banks lent the last 100 billion to the Greeks , just who is going to lend the next? The German taxpayer doesn’t have it, and the economie is not going to generate more. This is NOT going to end well.

  • It’s gonna be a wild ride, but you paid for it, and you will keep paying and paying and paying, so sit back, relax and leave the driving to us. Remember your gonna pay till it hurts and then some, so enjoy the ride.
    This is one ride you will not be able to get off.
    What flavor koolaide are they serving in the soup line???
    See how to survive the Economic Holocaust at:

  • McKinley Morganfield

    Greece defaulted the moment it could not pay creditors 100% on debts which were mature. In other words, Greece defaulted 2 years ago. Greece is in default and all the ECB, IMF, & FED QE E3 can not change this basic fact. When you can not pay back what you owe, you have defaulted. Granted, you can go a few months in arrears (as and individual) or even a few years as a nation state; but when you as an individual or a nation who can not make payment on interest, let alone principal, you fools are bankrupt.

  • Proftel


    Leia isso:

    Há luz no texto, use o tradutor.


  • Bone idle

    Christine Lagarde of the IMF has proposed an IMF rescue plan of 28 Billion Euros to be forwarded to Greece to keep the wheels turning over.

    Problem is – where is she going to get these funds from? The U.S. has refused to contribute to a Greek rescue plan. The U.K. is see sawing so are other Scandinavian countries – among others. Will she just conjure up computer key funds such as the E.C.B. has?

  • JustanOguy

    Big Deal… California owes more.

    Americans need to rise up and stand THAT bailing out the Big Banks that made the bad decisions in the first place IS NOT GOING to be Tolerated.

    Greece goes down and brings some big greedy banks down with them… SO WHAT.

    Not my problem.

    The propaganda out there that if the EU goes down and that they won’t be able to buy U.S. goods is BS. If anything, a year or two down the road, they can afford to buy MORE because all of their money is not going to some worthless bank on Wall St.

    Wake up kids… the “Fear” is BS.

    Does anybody really give a crap if Wall St. goes broke?

    • JustanOguy

      By the way… Wall St. going broke would be the best thing that could happen for the U.S. in the long run.

  • Forrestcat

    Unlike a person, a country have no lifespan that limit its ability to borrow as a country can repay its debt indefinitely..

    This is simple logic why greece got away with has signed an eternal contract with the debtors and sold off its future generations.

  • Pat

    I live in Spain. Say a prayer for me and my family. Spain began advertising its “crisis” to the population three years ago, This was no accident. They planned it all along.

    It started with a false flag bombing of a commuter train in Madrid for no apparent reason. Then we were hit with all sorts of fear mongering. Now the economic shock. See the documentary The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.

    There is no freedom in Europe. There never was. There is a dumbing down of the public and a willful ignorant attitude. And now we pay the price.

    Local people own no gold and silver. It will be hell. I got my gold here:

    We have plenty of friends who have no electricity, no water, no food and no income.

    Wake up. This same scenario will happen in the U.S. unless you elect an honest candidate like Ron Paul and stop acting like victims.

    • mondobeyondo

      Unfortunately, many will not be awake until their electricity, water and gas are shut off. Stuck in their ice-cold homes, with nothing to eat or drink and no American Idol to watch.

      Then they will wake up.

  • I heard on the news today that 20,000 people are living on the streets and homeless in Athens. Let me tell you being homeless is a really rough way to go.

  • Jeremy Bridges

    Go to to: The Slog. Read the following post dated March 9th:

    “Pressure on all sides on Merkel as Contained Default Amputation Movement gathers steam.”

    The Slog is seriously well informed. The Slog like The Economic collapse should be required reading for us all.

    Take care everybody.

    God Bless.

    Jez @ Chichester UK

    • Kathy Smith

      Thanks 4 the site info. Lots of interesting reading.

  • chiller

    The only ones buying or who bought EU bonds are in the same criminal enterprise as those changing the rules of the game and have no room to talk. The US knows a EU disaster will come home to roost and will print more money to limp everyone through…again. At what point does it all blow up? We’ll see and it ain’t going to be pretty.

  • David M

    I suspect they knew where this was going a long time ago.

    What they were using the time for was to plan how to unwind as much of it logically/fiscally as possible. Essentially spread the damage as evenly as possible OR to spare those special banking partners.

    Stock up on food!!!!! We might be seeing 2% food inflation PER MONTH by the end of the year!!!!

  • Nineta

    I live in a small town in Greece and life is getting very difficult for a lot of people. I know a young girl whose salary was cut by 50% and she cannot make it any longer. I have bought food for quite a lot of people recently.There are many, many stores that have closed permanently.There is a very strong movement to buy directly from the farmers with very little cost since food and supermarket is very expensive.My friends told me in Athens things are much more serious!

    • Bone Idle

      Good on you there Nineta. Keep up the fine work helping those less fortunately than yourself. Unfortunately things are going to get worse in Greece before they get better.

      Before ,long you and your friends and neighbours are going to need to start up a barter system for goods and services – like Argentinians did when their economy went default.

    • Paul

      So? It’s good for the farmers, right?

      And those who have a garden and really do some gardening. And Greece has some pretty good weather. Anything grows there anywhere. Take some soil, put in the seeds and put the pots onto the balcony and window sills. Tomatos should grow like weed. Same for basil.

      What else do you need?

    • Orange Jean

      Thanks for your post. I’m sorry to hear your community is in such a terrible state. However, it’s always a good thing to hear the news directly from those who are living in the place it’s happening.

      I’ve lived through a very bad wildfire that destroyed 1/3 of my community… had to evacuate and while staying with a friend over a week, I listened to the local “news” over and over with no mention of what happened in my town. In the meantime, the “news” covered what happened over and over what happened in the town that also was damaged but with fewer homes lost and no loss of life (there was one death in my town). It turned out many executives lived in the town where they put out the “news” but where there was less damage.

      It’s a good thing that Michael, and others like him, are willing to take the time to create a blog where others can comment and let the rest of us know what’s really going on.

      I sincerely hope things get better for your town. Buying locally from farmers is a wonderful idea, it’s something I do also and encourage others to do when possible.

    • mondobeyondo

      Stay strong and God Bless!

    • Laurus

      My thoughts and prayers are w/you. I fear we will all feel your pain soon, my friend.

  • I expect this will be the ‘butterfly flaps it’s
    wings’ event that will start the collapse ball

    Some bank won’t be able to meet it’s CDS
    obligations, (or ‘banks’, I should say), and
    the bottom card will begin to shake, then……

  • joel

    Any thoughts on investing in EUO.
    It is an ETF that shorts the Euro vs. the dollar.

    If the Euro completely tanks, it may be a good bet.???

  • Barn Cat

    A Greek default was supposed to lead to massive bank failures around the world along with other countries defaulting on their debts. Given how leveraged banks are this should lead immediately to a worldwide banking crisis. Unless the Federal Reserve or the ECB are making massive secret loans to stabilize the system. If that’s happening, the only way we will know will be a sudden decrease in the value of the dollar or the euro or both.

    • Bone Idle

      A Greek default was supposed to lead to massive bank failures

      So far there is only a “technical default” This in turn will lead to an orderly default.

      Unless the Federal Reserve or the ECB are making massive secret loans to stabilize the system.

      The ECB only a couple of weeks ago pulled 500 Billion from a hat to loan to 800 Euro banks at 1% interest.

      This loan is designed to carry the banks through in the case of a Greek “technical default”

      The game is still in play. The ISDA CDS’s have been actuated yet – until next week – and then it’s not sure how this will play out.

      The “bailout” is still conditional on Greece meeting some set criteria which haven’t been finalised as yet.
      There is still a possibility of a default on the March 23 payment.

      The Greek “deal” and bailout funds are a political decision and not wrapped in economic reality. The Euro bureaucracy and politicians are trying to prevent a complete Euro wide economic collapse
      (a) before the French presidential elections
      (b) Before the German Government baulks at coffing up Billions to rescue southern Europe.

      • sharonsj

        You forgot to add in the $7 trillion our Fed gave to the European banks. The Fed doesn’t actually have the money and so gave the banks “credit” based on the full faith and credit of the U.S. government–even though our government says the credit was never approved. Guess who’s gonna pay the price–the U.S. citizen.

  • Sandy CPA

    These Euro debt ridden countries will continue to fail until they face their addiction to spending. The problem is, the citizens are also addicted…to government payments. Sound familiar America?

  • bruce

    And how many $ will the fed print to bailout their banking buddies?

  • Proftel

    Suicidas muitos, cento e dez por cento acima da ww II:

  • robert

    I think like you do Mike. I have been telling peple for a very long time at my Barbershop to get ready. 95% just dont care. I just hope they are the “Zombies” ill have to shoot when they come for my stuff.

    Keep up the good work!!

    • Michael


      Thanks for the kind words.

      And yes, most Americans are never even going to see the nightmare coming.


      • Bone Idle

        And yes, most Americans are never even going to see the nightmare coming.

        Not just Americans. Many other countries citizens still have their head in the sand. Even countries like the U.K. who are directly affected by the virus in Europe.

  • McKinley Morganfield

    “If a government can go in and retroactively change the terms of a bond just before it is ready to default, then why should private investors invest in them?”

    And who now would be foolish enough to buy a General Motors bond, knowing when GM rolls craps once again you the bond holder will be told to pound sand and take 0% on your investment?

  • TtT Engine

    Greece is a foreshadowing of many nations about to fall. It is “just math” as our non vetted Pres. Obama states. The U.S.A. is $15.3 trillion in debt on current obligations and $117 trillion in debt on long-term promises that there is no money for [i.e. unfunded]. This is bankruptcy by any sane persons thinking [even with the power to print money out of thin air]. Bottom line, the U.S. takes in $2 trillion per year and spends $4 trillion. Hello, liberal bankrupt psychopath, increasing “revenues aka increases taxes” is not even a “drop” in the bucket. Without radical fiscal “haircuts” such as eliminating the entire Dept of Energy, tell the “fat lady” to start singing. Christi Fidelis

  • JackieG

    When one has an auto accident you collect insurance and buy a new one.
    Why don’t the bond holders collect on their investments loss?
    Is their no AIG style insurance company left to pay out?
    Same thing when Congress bailed out the banks.
    Why didn’t the banks collect from their insurance?
    I do not think any of these bonds, anywhere, are worth a tinkers damn.

  • Paul

    3.2 billion might be lot to you and me.

    The USA has about $120,000 billion debt.
    They make $2,000 billion new debt every year.

    Credit card debts in the UK were about $3,000 billion in 2008, and definitely didn’t shrink since then.

    So a bailout of $500 billion vs. a “haircut” of $3.2?

    That’s about the amount of hair you find in the comb in the morning.

  • shypuffadder

    I don’t think much will change for the TBTF banks. They will figure out (as usual) a way to make big profits anyway – its us taxpayers that have a huge problem (most of us just don’t know it yet). In the meantime, we can cheer the successful movement of that big rock. And when its time to go to war with Iran, those military meals should be enough to at least allow us to stand upright, walk and carry a gun. Yep, we’re still on course.

  • Ed_B

    As we have all seen over the past weeks and months of this farce, none of this is about helping Greece or the Greek people. It is 100% about the EU banks. They are simply extracting as much wealth from Greece as they possibly can before the country disintegrates completely.

    The Greeks have lost their national sovereignty and others are now deciding their fate. They have traded their future for a little temporary comfort in over-paid jobs, early retirement benefits, cushy public service jobs, etc. Well, now, how’s that working out for them? Not worth a damn would be a fair estimate. Is this not a lesson for others out there who think that we can have our economic cake and eat it too? Well, here’s a news-flash – WE CAN’T!

  • The whole western economic system is fake and including the that of the US and the UK otherwise there would be no talk of wars to invade rich resource countries such as Libya etc etc etc… therefore so what if Greece and almost all the Euro zone are in financial trouble. In fact for all intense and purpose they are already bankrupt and the only way these countries see themselves getting out of this nightmare is printing more money which will only increase their misery, the last step therefore will be war to destroy for a period of about four years and after the dust of this war settles down to usher in a totally new system of government and a new system financial system of no debit.

  • Newton

    As far back as mid 1970’s “it’s been coming” ! prepare ! It;s going to collapse ! Buy some land in Belize and get out now ! Buy bottled water and food and guns and gold !

    I remember reading my fathers :Spotlight magazine and you can go read them in the archives – you could just about interchange 90% of the articles with what’s going on today.

    If your waitinf for armageddon people —

    You got a long wait

  • justamom

    Dear Michael,
    This is another excellent article. Thank you! You genuinely have a gift–the ability to write simply and clearly about complicated financial situations. That said, I must confess that I am struggling to grasp what is happening here. Admittedly, I am not an economist; I am just a mom, and this challenging. Just consider the vocabulary words: credit event, derivatives, securities, hedge funds, credit default swaps, debt restructuring, retro-active collective action clauses. Not only do I NOT fully understand the meaning of these words, I cannot fathom the global impact of conditions set up by these words. Yikes!

    Please don’t misunderstand, YOU are doing a great job to help me. While I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, I did go to college, and I did take ONE economics course so I must be on par with the average American. If I am having this much trouble, perhaps I am not alone.

    I do get the bottom line: Greece has defaulted. Other Euro nations are in trouble. USA is not far behind. Beyond that, I simply cannot explain much beyond that.

    Have you thought about launching an online economics course? Sign me up…

  • Snoopy_The_Economist

    What’s a few billion dollars when they can and will print trillions? It won’t collapse under that small pressure.

  • Want to be the well off person in the future? Learn to mill your own corn and wheat into cornmeal and flour, I have a feeling the local blacksmith will be back in business as the economic system in this county fails and that 2 lbs of flour you just made is worth $5,000 US Dollars.

  • TtT Engine

    Hello Justamom, You are just doing fine. I’m sure like most moms and dads in America you have a family budget which is based on the income your family brings in your household today, not phony projections on tomorrow. Like most households, you have family olbligations in place that are absolute necessities. Above and beyond the absolute necessities, then you add other discretionary items IF and ONLY IF, you can afford them. That is the way a sane, conservative household runs. Federal Governments, like the U.S. are run by progressive liberal psychopaths, that are experts on spending other people’s money [the taxpayers]. When the taxpayers are broke, what you do is print money out of thin air and borrow more and more money that you do not have and continue spending. When we cut our budgets, we make real household cuts, like this year our family not joining the town swimming pool for $345 [conservative decision]. The federal government if they make any cuts at all, cut from the increases in spending. Instead of eliminating useless government agencies like the Dept of Energy [$15 billion per year]or the funding Planned Parenthood or funding for the arts, the Dept of Non-Education, etc. they cut from the growth of that Dept., if they even cut at all. The federal Government takes in $2 trillion per year and is spending $4 trillion per year of money that is ours/ the taxpayers. We owe $15 trillion on current obligations and $117 trillion on phony promises in the future that there is no money for. This is the prescription for Bankruptcy, which the U.S. Federal Government has determined for us. We have one last chance to change course in November. Christi Fidelis

  • I do not think that Greece ever went bankrupt.

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