Demonstrators gathered in Lebanon to denounce the formation of a new government by Lebanon’s long-time political barons, declaring that a solution to Lebanon’s multiple crises cannot be solved by the same groups of political and bureaucratic elites that have been systematically plundering the country’s resources for decades.
The demonstration that formed near the parliament building almost immediately turned into disturbances. Demonstrators started throwing stones and explosives at the police and tried to pass over the barriers placed in front of the parliament building.
Demonstrators destroyed traffic lights and the surveillance cameras placed on office buildings. In response, police used tear gas.
The disturbances have been contained, and all central squares and the streets leading to those squares are under the control of the army. Based on the data provided by Lebanon’s MTV, approximately 20 people were injured as a result of the clashes
One of the actions widely denounced by protestors was the appointment on Monday of a new prime minister, little-known diplomat Mustafa Adib, just hours before the arrival to Lebanon of French president Emanuel Macron.
Macron appeared in the country as some type of latter day emperor, meeting with key personalities from most of the political cliques and factions before demanding reforms on behalf of Western creditors.
“We demand progress in the next few weeks,” Macron said during a press conference from Beirut during his second visit in less than a month.
The French president said business would not “be as usual” among Lebanese leaders and that they had promised to implement widespread reforms to address the country’s unprecedented economic and financial crisis. **
As for the new government, Macron said he expected reforms to materialize within four weeks after its formation. If this does not occur, the international community will not release any aid and there will be ‘consequences’, he said.
Macron raised the possibility of sanctions on Lebanese leaders accused of corruption. Such measures will be coordinated with the European Union. No mention was made of whether the Western financial and corporate sector entities that have enabled and managed much of the systematic financial plunder of Lebanon could also face sanctions.
France will host another ‘donor’ conference to evaluate whether Lebanon’s economic reforms satisfy their demands in October. LINK
Meanwhile, in the streets of Lebanon’s capital the protesters that gathered in Beirut on Tuesday called for a ‘new Lebanon’ without its entrenched political leaders, and urged the visiting French president not to cooperate with them.
Clashes erupted in the evening between angry demonstrators and security forces, who responded with tear gas, while earlier in the afternoon, people demonstrating in the capital called for urgent change.
Several held up black versions of the Lebanese flag in mourning for the victims of the massive explosion at Beirut’s port on August 4 that killed 190, injured thousands and ravaged large parts of the city.
A protest movement that erupted in October last year has been revived since the blast, Lebanon’s worst peace-time disaster that has sparked rage against official neglect and a political class accused of squandering away the country with the enthusiastic assistance of Western bankers.
Demonstrators asked why Macron was meeting those very same leaders in his push for political change as the country marked 100 years since the former French mandate authorities proclaimed the creation of Greater Lebanon.
“He should come and listen to us, help us to realize our aspirations, not sit with the corrupt and criminals who killed their own people,” said Rima, a 46-year-old protester.
In the capital’s Martyrs Square, not far from the port, demonstrators one by one took to a stage to make their demands: a secular state, civil marriage, a productive economy.
Waving Lebanese flags and denouncing “corrupt” politicians, others nearby demanded the birth of a new secular state and the end of what they view as a broken political power-sharing system.
“The first century has been nothing but wars, foreign occupation, poverty, corruption, emigration, sectarian divisions, and now this explosion that killed and wounded thousands,” said 21-year-old port worker Omar.
“We urgently need to revamp this system,” he said, referring to a political arrangement that seeks to share power between Lebanon’s myriad religious communities but instead often leads to endless deadlock.
Zalfa, 70, said: “We want this second century to be one of secularism.”
Clashes erupted in the evening, sparking condemnation from activists and rights defenders over the authorities’ use of force.
“While Macron is meeting Lebanon officials, protesters are saying the entire ruling class has lost legitimacy,” wrote Human Rights Watch researcher Aya Majzoub on Twitter.
“They have been met with large quantities of (French) teargas, beatings, and arrests. In one incident, more than 10 police beat/kicked a protester on the ground,” she said.
Lebanon’s previous government stepped down after the port blast last month. LINK
Lebanon is going through its worst economic crisis in decades, exacerbated by the explosion at the country’s main port, the pandemic, and wide-ranging US economic and financial sanctions imposed as a form of collective punishment in an attempt to force political factions to confront Hezbollah.
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