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Curbs on Withdrawals by Banks Trigger Protests in Lebanon

The country has been witnessing popular protests since October 17, last year.
Protesters outside Lebanon’s police headquarters demanding the release of their detained comrades. (Photo: AP)

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 Wednesday January 15, to protest against the curbs imposed on withdrawal of dollars. Some of the protesters resorted to violence and vandalized the bank offices.

The police fired teargas and detained around 17 protesters for indulging in violence. This led to another round of protests in front of the police headquarters. Demonstrators demanded the release of those arrested.  

As per the Red Cross, around 47 people were injured in the police action on Wednesday. Majority of them were taken to nearby hospitals.  

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.    

Protesters also gathered in front of the country’s Central Bank to demand the lifting of curbs on withdrawals by the banks. 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 an 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. Diab has promised a cabinet of independent experts, which is one of the key demands of the demonstrators. However, he has not yet taken office.

Meanwhile, Hariri and speaker of the parliament, Nabih Beri, condemned the violent protests against the banks.

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