Beirut (AFP) – Dozens demonstrated Wednesday in front of the Central Bank in Beirut to protest the deteriorating living conditions, with the Lebanese pound recording a new record decline and the rise in fuel prices, according to AFP correspondents.
Lebanon is witnessing a suffocating economic and political crisis, which was exacerbated during the past two days by a judicial debate over the investigation path of the Beirut port explosion.
In front of the Central Bank, young men burned tires and closed the main road on the crowded Hamra Street, amid a heavy deployment of the Lebanese army during the demonstration called for by the Depositors’ Scream Association, which is a civil initiative concerned with the rights of depositors and accompanies their movements.
The demonstrators carried banners in French, English and Arabic condemning the governor of the Central Bank, Riad Salameh, who is facing a series of lawsuits in Europe on charges of money laundering and embezzlement, and burned his pictures.
He also wrote on one of the banners, “We will not starve … we will eat you,” referring to the ruling political class, including Salama, whom many hold responsible for the stormy collapse, and they also accuse officials of taking their money out of the country at the beginning of the crisis.
“The specter of a social explosion is hovering around us, and no one trusts corrupt officials and the governor of the Banque du Liban, who is being pursued by lawsuits,” said Alaa Kharchib of the Depositors’ Cry Association.
Since the fall of 2019, banks have imposed strict restrictions on withdrawing deposits, which have increased gradually, until it has become almost impossible for depositors to dispose of their money, especially those deposited in dollars, or transfer them abroad. And due to the impact of the crisis, which the World Bank ranked among the worst in the world since 1850, the lira lost about 95 percent of its value.
“The exchange rate will reach 60,000 pounds, and we are still in our place,” said Karim, a 38-year-old protester, an employee of a telecommunications company. “People are tired, despair and emigrate.”--
On Wednesday, the lira recorded a new deterioration, as it touched the threshold of 56,000 pounds against the dollar on the black market, according to money changers and electronic applications, in a rapid decline, less than a week after the exchange rate exceeded 50,000.-
This was accompanied by a rise in fuel prices, and the price of a can of gasoline (20 liters) exceeded one million pounds, about $19, in a country where 80 percent of the population is below the poverty line.
Political paralysis exacerbates the situation, in light of a presidential vacuum for months, during which the country is run by a caretaker government that is unable to take necessary decisions.
Since the end of former President Michel Aoun’s term at the end of October, the Lebanese parliament has failed 11 times to elect a president due to deep political divisions, especially since any party that does not have a parliamentary majority that authorizes it to appoint a candidate.
Since the beginning of this week, the country has also been witnessing a judicial crisis, after the judicial investigator in the Beirut port explosion case resumed his investigations despite dozens of lawsuits filed against him, which suspended his work for 13 months.
Judge Tariq Bitar sued eight new persons, including four judges, including the Public Prosecutor of Cassation, in an unprecedented procedure that was rejected by the Cassation Public Prosecution.
© 2023 AFP