Demonstrators block major roads in Lebanon as currency sees unprecedented depreciation


Published: 2021-03-08 14:36

Last Updated: 2022-08-10 12:26

Source: AP News
Source: AP News

Monday morning, protesters closed major roads across Lebanon, including most entrances to the capital, as the exchange rate recorded a record deterioration against the dollar and plunged the country into political stalemate without a horizon.

AFP correspondents and photographers reported that most of the entrances to Beirut were closed under several slogans, including "the day of rage."

Protesters torched waste bins and tires. The National News Agency also reported that protesters had closed several roads south of Beirut, most notably the airport road and in the northern regions, especially Tripoli and the Bekaa in the east and in the south of the country.

In recent days, the lira recorded an unprecedented record low since Lebanon entered the cycle of economic collapse a year and a half ago, as the exchange rate against the dollar approached the threshold of 11,000 on the black market.

This caused an additional rise in prices, prompting people to flock to the shops to buy and store food.

"We closed all roads in the region today to tell everyone: It's over, we have nothing to lose anymore. Even our dignity is gone," Pascal Nohra, a demonstrator who participated in the closure of a main road in the Jal el-Dib area, north of Beirut, told AFP.

"We want all people to show solidarity with us and take to the streets to demand their right, as the living crisis affects the Lebanese and all sects," the young woman, who was working in the real estate sector, added.

A major oxygen company in Lebanon called on citizens to "facilitate the passage of its trucks on all roads to meet the hospitals' need for medical oxygen for humanitarian necessity, especially during the Corona pandemic," which the authorities are struggling to limit its repercussions.

Foodstuff stores have witnessed shocking clashes in recent days, as people rush to buy subsidized goods, in a country where more than half of the population lives below the poverty line and where unemployment rates are gradually rising.

The Crisis Observatory at the American University of Beirut, which is a research initiative aimed at studying the implications of the multiple crises in Lebanon and ways to approach them, warned in a Monday report that if the Syrian crisis is any indication, the worst has not yet happened. 

Despite the weight of the economic crisis and the scarcity of liquidity, political efforts have failed to bear fruit despite international pressure to form a government, since the resignation of Hassan Diab's government, days after the terrible explosion at the Beirut Port.

Muhammad Faour, a researcher in banking and financial affairs, told AFP that the deterioration in the value of the lira "is just a continuation of a clear trend towards the decline in the exchange rate since the start of the crisis and of the chronic political inaction."

Since the summer of 2019, Lebanon has been witnessing its worst economic crises, which led to the local currency losing more than 80 percent of its value against the dollar, exacerbating inflation rates and causing tens of thousands to lose their jobs and sources of income, while the dollar reserves of the Central Bank were depleted.