Protesters in Lebanon blocked roads around the capital Beirut and other cities in the country by burning tires and garbage cans on Thursday to protest against the collapse of the national currency and growing economic difficulties.
The protest movement continues in Lebanon. The protesters hit the sidewalk again, on Thursday, June 11, against the authorities accused of corruption and against the growing financial difficulties. The Lebanese pound collapsed on Thursday, coming close to 5,000 pounds for a dollar threshold at the exchange office.
The Lebanese pound has lost 70% of its value since October last year, an economic crisis that has driven the movement to protest and question the elites, accused of corruption.
This depreciation comes at a time when the government is negotiating with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help stop the economic collapse, one of the vectors of the unparalleled uprising that began in October against a political class accused of incompetence.
Throughout the country, protesters expressed their dissatisfaction with the political class by singing and blocking the highways. The police sometimes intervened with tear gas.
These are the largest gatherings since the introduction of containment measures to fight the coronary virus in mid-March.
Protesters in Tripoli, the country’s second largest city in the north, threw Molotov cocktails to the central bank’s headquarters, caused a fire and urged security forces to use tear gas, witnesses say.
Dozens of protesters gathered at an important intersection in central Beirut, says an AFP journalist. “Thief, thief, Riad Salamé is a thief,” they shouted, referring to the Governor.
Young Shiites join the movement
They also donated unit slogans following sectarian conflicts last weekend. In addition, the protesters were joined by dozens of young people on motorcycles from a nearby Shia neighborhood. So far, residents of the latter have attacked anti-government meetings.
“People can’t take it anymore, that’s enough,” Haitham said, demonstrating in central Beirut, citing currency depreciation. “People have no work, no food to eat. They can’t buy medication, diapers or milk for the kids,” he protested. The authorities expect 50% inflation by 2020.
In the center of the capital, near the Riad al-Solh square, security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters who threw stones, according to local television.
Protesters mobilized on the highway north of Beirut, in Tire but also in Saïda (south) where dumps were set on fire, according to the official news agency ANI.
One dollar for £ 6,000
Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s services announced in a press release a “urgent” meeting of the government on Friday devoted to “the monetary situation”.
Officially, the national currency has been indexed on the dollar since 1997 at a fixed rate of 1,507 pounds for a dollar, but since October 2019 has continued to fall in exchange offices.
A money changer in Beirut said it bought dollars for 4,800 pounds, and sold it for 5,000 pounds. Another, in the southern suburbs, bought the dollar for £ 4,850. In the southern country, a customer claimed to have sold dollars at a rate of £ 4,750. Local media even talked about a $ 6,000 exchange rate for the dollar that night.
On Thursday evening, the central bank in a statement denied “baseless” information on “exchange rates at levels far from reality”.
Depreciation has led to an explosion in inflation affecting imports, be it household appliances, furniture or car parts.
The uprising on October 17, 2019 saw the uprising a few days hundreds of thousands of Lebanese hit the sidewalk to scream their troubles and condemn the failure of basic services and a deterioration of living conditions.
For the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, Lebanon needs international support to get out of the crisis, but it must be conditioned by the adoption of reforms that have long been ignored by the political class.
With AFP and Reuters