Protests sweep Lebanon as fury at ruling elite, graft grows

Protests sweep Lebanon as fury at ruling elite, graft grows

Tens of thousands of angry protesters blocked roads and burned tyres across Lebanon for a second day on Friday, demanding the demise of a political elite they say looted the economy to the point of breakdown.

The nationwide protests, Lebanon’s biggest in years, brought ordinary people from all sects and walks of life to the streets. They carried banners and chanting slogans calling on the government of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to resign.

In the afternoon, protesters poured en masse through the villages and towns of Lebanon’s south, north and east as well as the capital Beirut. No political leader, Muslim or Christian, was spared criticism.

Demonstrators reached the outskirts of President Michel Aoun’s palace in the suburbs of Baabda.

Addressing protesters from the presidential palace, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law, said on Friday that the government must work to stop corruption, enact long-delayed reforms and avoid imposing any new taxes on people.

Lebanon protests could be opportunity (for reform) or could lead to a big catastrophe and strife,” said Bassil, who dismissed protesters’ calls for the government to resign.

“Any alternative to the current government would be far worse,” and might plunge the country into chaos.

The latest unrest was prompted by a buildup of anger over inflation, new tax proposals including a fee on Whatsapp voice calls, and the rising cost of living.