Week of protests: Angry depositors attack banks in latest demo


Depositors and activists protested Friday in front of the Central Bank in Beirut's Hamra street. They burned tires and tried to smash the windows of some banks in the area.

This week has been one of the craziest in Lebanon after the black market dollar exchange rate hit the LBP 143,000 mark at the beginning of the week prompting protests that did not stop even after the pound regained some of its value after a Central Bank statement.

On Tuesday protesters closed down major roads in parts of the country.

On Wednesday, Lebanese security forces fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters, mainly retired soldiers, who tried to break through the fence leading to the government headquarters in downtown Beirut.

On Thursday, families of the Beirut port blast victims rallied in front of the Justice Palace to protest the obstruction of the probe.

Also on Thursday a visiting delegation of the International Monetary Fund said that Lebanon is "at a very dangerous moment", criticizing slow progress on reforms needed to unlock billions in loans.

The small nation is in the grips of the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by a political class that has ruled the country since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.

In late 2019, Lebanese banks imposed informal capital controls, restricting cash withdrawals from accounts to avoid folding amid currency shortages. People with dollar accounts could only to withdraw small sums in Lebanese pounds, at an exchange rate far lower than that of the black market.

This effectively evaporated the savings of many across the country. Angry depositors resorted to armed bank heists, demanding their own money. Others have filed lawsuits from abroad to retrieve their money in hard currency.

Last month, Lebanese commercial banks went on an open-ended strike and angry protesters took to the streets, smashing windows and setting tires on fire outside two of the country’s biggest banks in Badaro.

The banks reopened their doors in late February following caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s request to do so for people to retrieve their salaries.

In march, the banks shuttered doors again to customers but reopened again on Wednesday.

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