Popular anger in Lebanon: fewer demonstrators but roads blocked

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A handful of protesters blocked roads across Lebanon on Tuesday with tires and dumpsters on fire, the day after a strong mobilization denouncing difficult living conditions in a country sinking into a deep social crisis. economic.

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For a week, Lebanon has experienced almost daily unrest, which culminated on Monday with a strong mobilization and the blocking of the main entrances to Beirut throughout the day. However, there was no major confrontation between the police and the protesters.

After an unprecedented popular uprising against the ruling class accused of all evils at the end of 2019, the mobilization had run out of steam under the blows of the pandemic and especially the concerns of daily life, with unemployment and inflation which exploded and a historic plunge. of the Lebanese pound.

Popular anger in Lebanon: fewer demonstrators but roads blocked

Tuesday morning, after a brief shutdown, the army reopened the Jal el-Dib highway and another vital axis north of Beirut, according to the National News Agency ANI. Elsewhere in the country, other axes have been blocked, particularly in Tripoli (north) or in the Bekaa region (east).

Blockages on roads in the north of the country, especially in the Byblos region, caused morning traffic jams, an AFP photographer noted.

Warnings have multiplied about the impact of road blockades on the movement of ambulances and the transport of medical equipment, in a country which is battling against the coronavirus after recording unprecedented peaks of contamination.

Impact on hospitals

Firass Abiad, director of the Rafic Hariri public hospital warned that his establishment “and other hospitals filled with Covid patients” were facing “a worrying drop in oxygen reserves”.

“Suppliers have not been able to bring in the much needed gas because of the blocked roads,” he added. “Without oxygen, lives will be lost.”

Popular anger in Lebanon: fewer demonstrators but roads blocked

However, the current mobilization remains far from the protest movement of 2019 which saw tens of thousands of Lebanese, and sometimes hundreds of thousands, take to the streets for several weeks.

Asked about the weak mobilization, the political scientist Karim Bitar cites, among other factors, a certain “revolutionary weariness”, “the absence of a clear vision and of leadership”.

“People are taken by the throats of their daily survival problems. The problems of political change have become secondary to socio-economic survival, ”he says.

Popular anger in Lebanon: fewer demonstrators but roads blocked

The new fever spurt comes as the Lebanese pound has plunged again, with the greenback touching 11,000 pounds – against an official rate held at 1,507 pounds to the dollar.

Despite the urgency, political leaders, accused of incompetence and corruption, seem unfazed after surviving the protest at the end of 2019.

For seven months, the formation of a new government has stalled, the remaining parties absorbed by endless bargaining on the distribution of portfolios.

Its role will however be crucial for the bankrupt country, because it will have to initiate reforms demanded by the international community to unblock any financial aid which Lebanon sorely needs.