SIDON, Lebanon: Hundreds of Lebanese gathered in cities across Lebanon Wednesday, protesting for a second straight day against the crippling depreciation of the local currency and soaring unemployment.
The Lebanese pound sunk to a new record low this week, trading at LL10,000 and sparking nationwide protests which blamed the ruling political elite for rampant corruption and mismanagement. Most dealers, though, stopped selling dollars. The pound hit a record low of LL9,800 last July.
In the southern port city of Sidon, angry protestors blocked early Wednesday a section of the highway linking Beirut to south Lebanon over deteriorating living conditions and the unchecked rise of the dollar.
Ali, a carpenter based in the southern city, said he had to shut down his business despite having a family of three.
“How can I feed my family now? I am forced to beg for money,” he told The Daily Star.
Protestors allowed trucks loaded with bread and gas tanks to cross blocked roads.
“There are poor people like us who need bread, which they will soon be unable to afford. These politicians took us back to the stone age!” Ali added.
As residents have grown tired of falling victim to a corrupt ruling class, protests erupted across the country late Tuesday and continued in some areas Wednesday morning, they echoed the same sentiment: they are hungry and can no longer afford basic necessities. Many demand the prompt enactment of sound economic policies which would yield improvements to their daily quality of life.
Another protestor, Mahmoud Abu Soltaniyeh, 54, expressed his rage at Lebanon’s political elite, especially President Michel Aoun.
“I collect iron, tin and plastic [scrap] to sell them. When we head to the doctor’s office, you put us, Mr. President, in front of three options: we die of hunger, or we steal to live or push our wives to prostitution.”
Lebanon’s political and financial elite have made addresses promising to stabilize the Lebanese pound, but their statements fell on the deaf ears of a population exhausted by empty pledges after the minimum monthly wage is now worth $68.