ISSN 2330-717X

Lebanese Erupt In Rage As Currency Hits New Low

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By Najia Houssari

The dollar exchange rate in the Lebanese black market has lost its ceiling, as the pound jumped on Tuesday from 13,000 to 15,000 against the US dollar.

Angry protestors took to the streets and forced owners of grocery stores to close, while others voluntarily decided to close and announced that “they will remain closed until further notice and until all this dollar madness stops.”

Bakery owners threatened to stop making bread, gas station owners threatened to stop selling.

Turmoil prevailed on Tuesday, where protesters closed roads in Beirut. The impasses reached Bliss Street across the American University of Beirut and the upscale Koraytem neighborhood. Protestors burned tires near the Banque Du Liban and other banks and broke the facades of grocery stores.

Roads linking main regions in Lebanon were blocked, including those in the southern city of Naqoura. In Tripoli, protestors headed to politicians’ houses and smashed their security cameras.

Working mothers also took to the streets, along with their children, and protested outside the Serail government building in Nabatiyeh, south Lebanon.

Ilda Mazraani said: “We are women working both in the private and public sectors. Our salaries have collapsed, and our concerns have increased.”

She urged politicians to “act fast to address this deterioration and save the country and the future of our children.”

A copy of a document issued by the Lebanese General Security circulated on social media about “the possibility of an escalation in the streets that can reach armed operations targeting the houses of politicians.”

The document added: “Information indicates that chaos, subversion, and the use of arms in the streets will prevail, as well as looting and scores’ settling under the pretext of the dramatic increase of the dollar exchange rate and the rising cost of living in implementation of political agendas, which can all break out at any moment now.”

The British Embassy on Tuesday urged its citizens in Lebanon to “stay vigilant during their movements in the coming days.”

Ismail, a Syrian delivery boy at a Beirut restaurant, told Arab News: “Some men got in his way on Monday noon in Tayouneh, the area that links Beirut to the southern Dahye suburbs, and ordered him to give them his money, because ‘they wanted to eat breakfast’ then stole all the money he had, which belonged to the restaurant.”

Syrian refugees and workers in Lebanon are considered among the most vulnerable groups during crises.

During a parliamentary session on Tuesday, the parliamentary committees approved a $200 million loan to be granted to the Electricity Company (EDL), which would help postpone the blackout Lebanon was headed for by the end of March for two extra months.

Minister of Energy Raymond Ghajar had previously warned that Lebanon would go into total darkness if the EDL was not subsidized to buy fuel and operate energy plants.

According to Reuters, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that “Lebanon cannot cover fuel subsidies after March and the government can keep some subsidies until June.”

No mediation has managed to solve the issue of government formation. A political source familiar with the issue told Arab News: “The head of the Free Patriotic Movement is still insisting on the blocking third in the new government, along with granting the Armenian Tashnag party a minister and another minister for its other ally, MP Talal Arslan.”

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukahri met Beirut’s Metropolitan Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Aoude and ascertained that “the Kingdom stands by Lebanon.”

The US Embassy in Lebanon revealed that the US Central Command Commander Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie visited Beirut on Monday and met with the Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun and other senior officers.

A statement issued by the embassy said: “The meeting stressed the need to preserve Lebanon’s security, stability and sovereignty and highlighted the importance of the solid partnership between the US and the Lebanese armies, especially during the economic hardships that Lebanon is currently facing.”

A Hezbollah delegation on Monday met Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said: “The meeting stressed Russia’s firm position and commitment to supporting Lebanon’s sovereignty, integrity and security of its lands and the need to address pressing issues on the national agenda through a broad dialogue involving representatives of all religious communities in Lebanon exclusively in the legal field and without foreign interference.”

The ministry added that the meeting focused “on the urgent need to form a new government headed by Saad Hariri and able to secure Lebanon a way out from the systemic crisis.”

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Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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