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Lebanon protests against the imposition of new taxes amid a severe economic crisis

LEBANON (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Thousands of Lebanese protested for a second day on Friday, cutting off major roads in various regions, in a unified move to raise the voice against the government and new taxation decisions in a country already hit by a severe economic crisis.

The demonstrations, unprecedented for years, broke out on Thursday night after the government approved a tax on communications via Internet applications. Although the government withdrew its decision in the face of street anger, the movement of protests against all components of the political class represented in the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri did not stop.

The demands of the street resigned, in a movement that did not exclude a party, sect or leader.

Lebanon’s street curse has risen in recent weeks over a possible deterioration in the value of the local currency, which has depreciated on the black market against the dollar, and the government is pushing for new taxes amid signs of an imminent economic collapse.

Protesters gathered in central Beirut near the government headquarters on Friday, chanting “Revolution, Revolution” and “People want to overthrow the regime,” raising Lebanese flags at a time when schools, universities, banks and many institutions are closed.

Protesters cut off major roads in various areas leading to the capital and Beirut International Airport for the second day in a row, AFP photographers said. Security forces have repeatedly reopened vital roads.

In an indication of the magnitude of the popular resentment, it appeared remarkable since Thursday night out angry demonstrations in areas affiliated with Hezbollah, the most important components of the government, such as the southern suburb of Beirut and the other south, especially the city of Nabatieh, where protesters gathered near the homes and offices of a number of Hezbollah and Amal MPs.

Demonstrators also tore pictures of Hariri in the northern city of Tripoli, where he has influence. Others demonstrated in Christian areas affiliated with the nationalist movement led by President Michel Aoun.

At 2 am, Farah Kaddour, from downtown Beirut, told AFP: “People took to the street because they felt pain,” adding, “This is a demonstration against the entire ruling class, and it must turn into civil disobedience against them.”

The Lebanese government was supposed to hold an emergency meeting at the presidential palace, but it was canceled, without explaining the reasons. Hariri is supposed to address the citizens later today.

– Disobedience.

The demonstrations at night were not without riots, the effects of which were visible on the streets of Beirut on Friday morning, where garbage containers spread randomly amid the roads with traces of tires burned at night and scattered glass after protesters broke the windows of shops.

Two foreign workers were suffocated overnight after angry protesters set fire to a building under construction in downtown Beirut, the official NNA news agency reported.

Downtown Beirut witnessed a scramble at night between security forces and demonstrators who attempted to storm the government headquarters. Security forces fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, causing fainting.

The Internal Security Forces announced that sixty of its members were injured in the stampede.

With the continued closure of roads and burning of the burning tire, Interior Minister Raya Hassan called on the demonstrators to “not to be exposed to public and private property, and to close the roads and avoid cracking and sabotage.”

The protests began on Thursday, hours after the government imposed a 20-cent fee on calls for cellular applications, including WhatsApp, in a move the government hoped would secure an estimated $ 200 million a year for the treasury.

In the wake of the protests, the government retracted the imposition of this fee.

In recent years, Lebanon’s economy has fallen sharply, registering barely 0.2 percent growth in 2018. Successive governments have failed to undertake structural reforms in the small country plagued by debt and corruption.

The lira has risen in recent weeks to 1,600 against the dollar. Banks and money exchanges have limited the sale of the dollar, making it almost impossible to obtain it.

Lebanon suffers from insufficient provision of basic services and sagging infrastructure. Today’s public debt is estimated at more than $ 86 billion, more than 150 percent of GDP. The unemployment rate is more than 20 percent.

The government pledged last year to undertake structural reforms and reduce the budget deficit, in return for grants and loans worth 11.6 billion dollars. The government has so far been unable to deliver.

– Resignation? – Hey.

The demonstrations shed light on the political division and the divergence of views between the components of the government on the mechanism of allocating quotas and administrative appointments and how to reduce the deficit on the one hand, and the relationship with neighboring Syria on the other.

The relationship with Syria is a controversial item within the government, with the FPM and its ally Hezbollah insisting on opening up to Damascus, and Prime Minister Saad Hariri and other parties oppose it.

Bassil’s opponents have a desire to be uniquely in power, taking advantage of his relationship with his ally Hezbollah and a balanced ministerial quota.

The head of the Lebanese Forces Party, Samir Geagea, represented in the government, called on Hariri on Friday to submit “the resignation of this government.”

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said in a televised interview on Thursday night that the demonstrations “turned the table on everyone.”

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