Curbs on withdrawals by banks trigger protests in Lebanon

The country has been witnessing popular protests since October 17, last year

January 16, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Lebanon protest
Protesters outside Lebanon’s police headquarters demanding the release of their detained comrades. (Photo: AP)

A large number of demonstrators gathered in front of bank offices in Beirut for the second consecutive day on January 15, to protest against the curbs imposed on withdrawal of US dollars. Marking their resistance, some of the protesters resorted to smashing the windows of the bank offices.

Wednesday’s protest was met with police violence. More than 47 people were injured in the police action against the protesters. According to reports, around 17 people were detained by the police inconnection to the protests. This led to another round of protests in front of the police headquarters demanding the release of those arrested.   

Since the middle of last month, banks have put curbs on the withdrawal of dollars in the country.  Most of them have a withdrawal limit of a maximum of USD 1,000 per month. This sum is considered inadequate for people to cater to their daily needs. Most of the Lebanese use both the local pound and US dollars for their consumption needs. As per reports, due to the depreciation of the local currency against the US dollar, the official value of one dollar is more than 1500 Lebanese pounds, thus common people find it difficult to use the currency.    

Demanding the lifting of curbs on withdrawals by banks, protesters gathered in front of the country’s Central Bank as well. Apart from the political leadership, demonstrators blame the head of the Central Bank for the financial crisis in the country. 

Since October 17 last year, people have been demonstrating in Lebanon demanding overhaul of country’s political system. Due to these popular protests, prime minister Saad Hariri was forced to resign on October 29.  However, the political leadership failed to come up with a credible alternative to Hariri, and he continued as the caretaker prime minister. Last month, academic Hassan Diab was chosen as the new prime minister of Lebanon by the parliamentary groups. Deb has promised a cabinet of independent experts, which is one of the key demands of the demonstrators. However, he has failed to take charge so far.

Meanwhile, Hariri and speaker of the parliament, Nabih Beri, condemned the violent protests against the banks. However, the UN has blamed the political elite for the crisis.

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