Lebanon Protesters Block Roads Over Worsening Poverty
Lebanese protesters set up new road blocks Tuesday to vent anger over political inaction in the face of deepening poverty, but security forces managed to re-open some to traffic.
The country has been mired in economic crisis, which has brought surging unemployment and spiralling prices while the currency has plunged to a new low to the dollar on the black market.
Yet the government — which formally resigned after the massive Beirut port explosion last August that killed more than 200 people — has failed to agree on a new cabinet since.
Road blocks have become a near daily occurrence in the small Mediterranean country and lasted all day Monday, including in and out of Beirut.
Demonstrators on Tuesday again cut off some roads in the northern city of Tripoli and the eastern region of the Bekaa, the National News Agency said.
Highways leading to Beirut were also briefly closed, but then re-opened to flowing traffic.
Some protesters have called for a revival of the nationwide street movement of late 2019 that demanded the removal of Lebanon’s entire political class, widely seen as incompetent and corrupt.
More than half of the population is living below the poverty line, and prices have soared as the Lebanese pound has lost more than 80 percent of its value.
With foreign currency reserves dwindling fast, the authorities have warned they will soon have to lift subsidies on fuel and mostly imported food.
President Michel Aoun has accused demonstrators blocking roads of “sabotage”, but also called for authorities to prevent “the manipulation of food prices”.
Despite growing anger on the streets, there have been no serious clashes between security forces and demonstrators in recent days, in contrast to previous rallies.
Lebanon’s economic crisis has been aggravated by several lockdowns to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, the country entered a new phase of alleviating the latest stay-at-home order imposed after hospitals became overwhelmed following the winter holidays.