Lebanese security forces fired tear gas on Wednesday to disperse hundreds of protesters, mainly retired soldiers, who tried to break through the fence leading to the government headquarters in downtown Beirut.
The violence came amid widespread anger over the harsh economic conditions in the country, where mismanagement by the ruling class has been rampant for years, preceding the economic meltdown that started in late 2019.
The retired soldiers demanding better pay were clashing with riot police and troops. Several people suffered breathing problems from the tear gas. The protesters hurled stones at the officers protecting the government headquarters and repeatedly tried to break through the fence.
The Lebanese pound hit a new low on Tuesday, selling for more than 143,000 pounds to the dollar before making some gains. The pound has lost more than 96 per cent of its value over the past three years.
“My monthly salary is USD 40. How can I survive,” screamed a retired army officer.
Lebanon, a small Mediterranean nation of 6 million people, is in the grips of the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history, rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by a political class that has ruled the country since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.
The political class has also resisted the implementation of reforms demanded by the international community. Since the economic meltdown began, three-quarters of the population, which includes 1 million Syrian refugees, now lives in poverty and inflation is soaring.
Lebanon has also stalled on reforms agreed to with the International Monetary Fund to enable access to USD 3 billion in a bailout package and unlock funds in development aid to make the economy viable again.