Lebanese anger at the banks reached a dangerous level this Thursday. At least six bank branches were torched in Beirut after the national currency continued to fall, losing 98% of its value. The attacks come after months of car robberies that have seen dozens of customers recover some of their life savings who were subjected to a corralito using gun and jerry can violence. Since 2019, the country has plunged into a deep economic crisis — defined by the World Bank as one of the world’s worst in a century and a half — that has sparked the migration of both the Lebanese themselves and Syrian refugees to Europe in the countryside. .
The pictures show various people in the Badaro district of Beirut, setting fire to tires and pointing them at branches, throwing Molotov cocktails, smashing shop windows with pickaxes or graffitiing sentences such as “Lebanese banks are thieves”. Dozens of protesters have also looted branches in the city of Tripoli, blocked roads in other parts of the country and protested outside the residence of Bankers’ Association President Salim Sfeir. El Grito de los Ahoradores, one of the organizations representing the country’s 6.9 million residents who can only withdraw $100 per week per month, has claimed responsibility for the action. Banks have been closed to the public since the 7th and are on strike over a ruling requiring one of them to pay cash bail.
The exchange rate of the local currency, the pound, against the dollar was 1,500 before the crisis. Just two months ago it was 43,000 in the parallel market. This Thursday it rose to 80,000, 10,000 more than two days ago. Government action has failed to prevent collapse in a country where 80% of the population lives below the poverty line and where public debt accounts for 180% of GDP. The International Monetary Fund is calling for a raft of reforms to disburse $3,000 million.
The economic crisis is compounded by political paralysis: the country has been without a president for almost four months. Parliament has held 11 sessions without agreeing on a replacement for Michel Aoun. In a speech commemorating the “martyrs of the resistance” this Thursday, the leader of the Hezbollah party militia, Hasan Nasrallah, assured that there was “no news” in this regard and that the solution to the problem “requires an internal agreement”. The world cannot impose a president on Lebanon,” he stressed, after recalling that the meeting of the ambassadors of the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt on April 6 in Paris ended without any result in acting .
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