Protesters of lebanese took to the streets of Beirut and other cities on Saturday during demonstrations, mostly peaceful, against the government, calling for his resignation so that the small country is sinking into economic distress. These events take place after two days of rallies triggered by the dramatic collapse of the local currency against the dollar. These rallies have degenerated into violence, including attacks against banks and private stores.
The local currency, indexed to the dollar for nearly 30 years, is on a downward path for weeks, losing more than 60% of its value. But the spectacular collapse this week has compounded the despair of the public opinion regarding the economy is already in trouble. Lebanon depends heavily on imports, and the dollar and the local currency are used interchangeably for years.
The economic and financial crisis without precedent prove to be a major challenge for the government of Prime minister Hassan Diab, who took office earlier this year after the resignation of his predecessor amid protests at the national level. Shortly after its entry into function, Diab has been confronted to the management of the pandemic coronavirus, which has put the country in lockdown for months, further exacerbating the crisis.
The government of Diab is supported by the powerful militant group Hezbollah and its allies, but it has already been weakened by the economic crisis.
In a speech Saturday, Diab has urged the public to be patient, saying that there was a large number of political obstacles, including rivals that he said sought to undermine his government. Diab has not proposed any solution to the crisis, and has not named his opponents, but said that his government is working to combat corruption and to maintain the power of the State.
To the protesters on Saturday, many of whom are members of organised political parties, the government of Diab failed to manage the crisis.
Neemat Badreddin, a political activist, has described the government as captive of the interests of political groups and not the general public.
“This current government has proven to be a failure,” said Badreddin, wearing a mask representing the lebanese flag with its green cedar in the center. ” ou want a new government … we want stability and we want to be able to live without begging, or without the people to have to migrate.
The protesters in Beirut carried a banner that read, ” there is an alternative “.
In the southern city of Sidon, some have directed their anger against the governor of the central bank. One protester held up a banner called the ” protector of all thieves in Lebanon “.
In the city of Tripoli, in the north of the country, the troops of the army dispersed with the force of dozens of protesters who had blocked the road preventing trucks from moving on, according to videos posted online. The protesters alleged that the trucks were smuggling goods to Syria — a common complaint in Lebanon while the neighboring country is grappling with its own economic difficulties. Later, the lebanese customs authorities said in a press release that the trucks were carrying aid to the UN for Syria.
After an emergency meeting of the Cabinet on Friday to face the crisis, the government announced that the central bank would put dollar costs on the market to support the lebanese pound – a measure that many say is likely to provide only temporary relief.
The shortage of dollars, coupled with economic growth, already negative, has fallen in love with the middle-class lebanese and increased poverty in this small mediterranean country of over five million inhabitants, home to more than a million syrian refugees.
The government is heavily indebted and is in talks for weeks with the international monetary Fund after you have requested a financial rescue plan, but there is no sign of an imminent agreement.
The writer Fadi Tawil, the Associated Press has contributed to this.