On October 24th, protests in Lebanon continued for a week, with no sign of slowing down. The large-scale protests began on October 17th, but they were simmering for a few weeks prior.
Protests started taking place in small numbers around Beirut towards the end of September. On October 1st, the Central Bank of Lebanon announced an economic strategy that promised to provide dollars to all those companies in the business of importing wheat, gasoline and pharmaceuticals, so that they could continue their imports. This was considered a short-term solution by economic analysts.
In a cabinet session held on 17 October, the government proposed strategies to increase state budget for 2020. There were 36 items to be discussed, including the increase of Value Added Tax (VAT) by 2% by 2021 and an additional 2% by 2022, making it reach a total of 15%.
Additionally, the media reported there were plans of a $0.20 charge on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls, such as ones made on FaceTime, Facebook and WhatsApp.
Protests broke out, and the final session on the budget draft was cancelled upon the agreement of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun.
On October 24th, Lebanese president Michel Aoun gave a televised address in which he invited protesters to talks.
The video was supposedly a live broadcast, but it very clearly wasn’t. With each camera change, Aoun’s tie changed positions, he miraculously swapped between leaning back and forward, his left hand kept changing positions without any movement being shown on a live broadcast, and there are numerous weird pauses.
Notably, around 33 seconds in the video, the camera changes angles and it can be seen that the books in the background are differently arranged, with some tilting, which is quite suspect.
Regardless, in the address Aoun said he was willing to meet demonstrators who have been taking to the streets for eight straight days calling for Lebanon’s post-civil war leadership to be held accountable for years of corruption and economic mismanagement.
The president insisted the government could not be toppled from the streets, but mooted a government reshuffle and pledged to back new legislation aimed at clamping down on corruption, saying the issue had “eaten us (Lebanon) to the bone”.
Aoun announced his support of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s recently unveiled reform package – which had left protesters’ unimpressed – calling the measures “the first step to save Lebanon and remove the spectre of financial and economic collapse.”
He expressed solidarity with protest grievances and he said corruption had “eaten us to the bone”. He pledged to exert every effort to implement radical reform, but also said that change can only come from within state institutions.
“I heard lots of calls for bringing down the regime,” he said. “The regime cannot be changed in the squares… this can only happen through state institutions.”
Both Hariri and Aoun have warned that a government resignation would lead to another vacuum, at a time the country desperately needs a government to enact reforms to help the struggling economy. Protesters, however, continued calling for the entire government to resign, so that new faces could be elected.
One of the most repeated chants, “All of them means all of them!” (Kilon Ya3ne Kilon) means that the protest isn’t against the president or prime minister. But rather that the entire political elite in Lebanon has to go, from the 81-year-old speaker of Parliament, who has been in office for close to 30 years, to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose billionaire father previously held the post.
MSM reports claim that the protests are also against Hezbollah, with claims there is a chant that says “All of them means all of them, and Nasrallah is one of them.” Hassan Nasrallah is the leader of the Hezbollah movement and he is quite popular in the country, as somebody who has long opposed Israel.
During the protests, there seems to be little heavy violence, but there were clashes, specifically between Hezbollah supporters and protesters.
Protesters even cleaned the streets every morning after the protests.
And the difference between the situation, for example, in Hong Kong is obvious.
Protesters even sang Baby Shark for a child, which was sleeping while his mother drove her car, trying to get through the protest. The mother asked protesters to be quiet, and not to wake the toddler.
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