Lebanese in Angry Protests as Crisis Worsens


Hundreds of angry Lebanese protested across the country on Tuesday in renewed rallies against the ruling elite they say has failed to address the economy's downward spiral.

Protesters blocked several roads and major highways starting ealry with the morning rush hour in the capital Beirut, the northern city of Tripoli, the southern city of Nabatieh and Mount Lebanon, they also denounced a class of political leaders they deem incompetent and corrupt.

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

In downtown Beirut, dozens rallied outside the Central Bank, chanting against the governor and his financial policies. Security forces separated the protesters from the bank's entrance.

Although protests have declined in size, demonstrations have been ongoing since October 17, increasingly targeting banks and state institutions blamed for driving the country towards collapse.

The movement has been fuelled by a crippling economic crisis, the worst since Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.

The World Bank has warned of an impeding recession that may see the proportion of people living in poverty climb from a third to half the population.

To make matters worse, a liquidity crunch has pushed Lebanese banks to limit dollar withdrawals and transfers since September.

This has forced depositors to deal in the plummeting Lebanese pound, which has lost nearly two thirds of its black market value against the greenback for the first time since it was pegged at 1,500 to the dollar in 1997.

Lebanon has been without a government since former Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29, bowing to popular pressure.

His successor, Hassan Diab, was designated on December 19 but is yet to form a government in a delay donors say debt-saddled Lebanon can ill afford.

In a statement on Friday, he said he still stands by his pledge to form a government of independent experts to rescue the country from the brink of collapse, a key demand of protesters.

But he said his efforts were being challenged.

"The pressures, no matter how large, will not change my conviction," he said on Twitter.

"I will not bow to intimidation."

The delay in forming a government has drawn the ire of demonstrators.

“We are tired of this skirting of responsibility," said Rolan Younan, a demonstrator.

"We need to reshape the political class."

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