“Everything we’re suffering from is because of the banks and the central bank’s policies,” Ali, a 21-year-old college student, said at the protest in Beirut’s Hamra commercial district. “This is why there’s no longer any money, and prices are rising.”
After almost three weeks of relative calm, demonstrators once again blocked roads, burnt tires and ATM machines, and shut off three highways leading to the capital from the country's south.
Lebanese security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters, facing off with dozens of people who pelted them with stones and fireworks.
The newly kindled anger comes after banks imposed tight controls on peoples’ savings, limiting dollar withdrawals and blocking most transfers abroad.
“They won’t give people their own money,” a protester said. While a mother of three told AFP news agency they’ve “gone back to closing down roads” because they “can't stand it anymore."
The head of the banking association told Reuters this week that the policies sought to “preserve the wealth of Lebanon,” and Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh says deposits are safe.
Since Oct. 17, protesters have been demanding a technocratic government formed by independent experts, non affiliated with traditional political parties to try and find a solution to an economic debacle that has filtered into the financial system, pushing the country into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Prompted by such protests against the ruling elite, on Oct. 29, former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned, which led to an even stronger political deadlock for over a six weeks until Dec. 19 when Lebanese President Michel Aoun announced that he had named the former Minister of Education Hassan Diab as the new Prime Minister.
Yet Diab has so far failed to form an emergency government amid political divisions and power struggles. Last week Aoun said Lebanon was currently paying the price for 30 years of wrong financial policies.