Protesters block roads in Lebanon as anti-gov’t rallies resume

Demonstrators shut off highways leading to Tripoli from the country’s south as rallies against ruling elite continue.

Cars are stuck in a traffic jam as Lebanese anti-government protesters block a road with burning tires during a demonstration in Beirut on January 14, 2020.
Cars stuck in a traffic jam as anti-government protesters block a road with burning tyres during a demonstration in Beirut [Anwar Amro/AFP]

Protesters in Lebanon have resumed blocking several major roads in the capital, Beirut, and other areas of the country, in renewed demonstrations against a ruling elite deemed inefficient and corrupt.

Rallies picked up following a brief period of relative calm, with demonstrators on Tuesday burning tyres and shutting off three highways leading to the capital from the country’s south.

Students also took part in some of the protests and hundreds marched down main highways, raising Lebanese flags and blasting rallying songs through loudspeakers.

In central Beirut, dozens rallied outside the central bank, chanting against the governor and his financial policies.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr said protesters in Beirut were rallying under the slogan “the revolution is coming back”, promising to launch a week of demonstrations.

The nationwide demonstrations calling for a government overhaul began in October last year, leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri on October 29. In mid-December, Hassan Diab was designated as prime minister, but has so far failed to form an emergency government amid political divisions and jockeying for power.

In the northern city of Tripoli and in Akkar province, protesters on Tuesday sat in the streets and blocked several roads with burning tyres or bricks. In the southern city of Sidon, dozens of protesters marched down the streets, rallying outside banks and government offices.

Laila Youssef, 47, said she was taking part to call on politicians to wake up.

“We’ve gone back to closing down roads because we can’t stand it any more,” the mother of three told AFP news agency. “What we earn today is not enough to buy the basics for home.”

Lebanon is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, with the local currency plummeting against the US dollar, losing more than 60 percent of its value over the last weeks while sources of foreign currency have dried up.

Meanwhile, banks have imposed informal capital controls, limiting withdrawal of dollars and foreign transfers in the country, which relies heavily on import of basic goods.

Panic has set in among residents who fear their deposits are in danger. The protests have so far failed to pressure politicians to form a new government to institute drastic reforms.

Lately, protesters had focused their anger on banks, rallying at the premises or outside banks and demanding access to their deposits. Dozens have also taunted politicians who showed up in shopping malls or restaurants, sometimes chasing them out of public places and decrying their failure to address the economic crisis.

Protesters say they want a new government of independent experts to be appointed to steer the country through its major economic crisis, which they blame on policies adopted by the country’s ruling elite.

Demonstrators also want early elections to be held based on a new, non-sectarian electoral law.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies