Lebanon security forces fire tear gas at economic protesters
Lebanese security forces fired tear gas at protesters demonstrating in Beirut on Wednesday against deteriorating living conditions, as the currency fell to new lows against the dollar.
Lebanon’s economic crisis, described by the World Bank as one of the worst in recent world history, has left most of the population in poverty, according to the United Nations.
Many of the hundreds protesting on Wednesday were retired servicemen whose army pensions have lost most of their value, and cash-strapped banks have locked depositors out of their savings.
“I used to make about $4,000, now my pension is worth $150,” retired general Khaled Naous, 70, told AFP.
“We are not able to ensure basic needs.”
Security forces fired tear gas and some demonstrators tried to push through barriers to access a compound housing government offices, while others threw stones.
AFP correspondents said a producer and a member of the security forces were wounded.
The Lebanese pound, officially pegged at 15,000 to the dollar, was trading on parallel markets at more than 100,000 against the greenback – a depressing drop from 1,507 before the fall began in late 2019.
“The people are demanding their most basic rights… and they respond with tear gas,” complained former army soldier Amal Hammoud, 53 years old.
The currency collapse has been devastating for those on fixed incomes, triggering price hikes on imported fuel, food and other basic goods, with supermarkets this month starting to price goods in dollars.
Protesters shouted slogans against the political elite, widely blamed for the country’s financial collapse.
Marwan Seifeddine, a father of five, told AFP he was barely making ends meet on a pension that is now worth just $50.
“I am unemployed and I am selling my furniture to feed my family,” he said.
Political inaction has been a hallmark of Lebanon’s economic crisis.
Since last year, the country has had no president and only a caretaker government amid the ongoing deadlock between rival blocs in parliament.