National Public Radio (NPR)
by LAUREN FRAYER
In a typical cafe in downtown Lisbon, old men play cards or dominoes over cups of milky coffee or cold glasses of vinho verde and commiserate about the economy.
One of their favorite ways to do this is through a new card game that’s all the rage in Lisbon these days. Vem Aí a Troika, or Here Comes the Troika, is a satirical cross between Monopoly and Old Maid, in which players try to stash away savings in offshore accounts, win elections — and avoid the dreaded troika card.
The game is based on Portugal’s painful experience with the troika — the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund — which rescued Portugal’s failing economy with more than $100 billion in bailout loans two years ago.
Inspectors from Portugal’s creditors arrive back in Lisbon on Monday to assess the country’s progress — which doesn’t look all that good.
The Portuguese economy is still shrinking, and the government has indicated it may not fulfill its deficit goals. In order to try to pay back its bailout loans, Lisbon hiked taxes. The tax burden for some Portuguese has doubled. Unemployment is pushing a record 17 percent. Poverty is on the rise.
And so is opposition to the troika.
“Basically, the troika card ends the game,” says Carlos Mesquita, a 49-year-old engineer who invented the game with some friends late last year. “You don’t necessarily lose [when the troika card is played, but] it’s a way to finish the game. And then you just count your points to see who won.”
Players win points by forming alliances with corrupt leaders, making shady financial deals and winning the support of influential interest groups.