CIA pulls dollars out of beirut & sends in masked regime change thugs

Lebanese president calls on ARMY to intervene in massive protests, Jan 18 2020

Beirut has been plunged into chaos amid massive protests. Police struggled to contain the angry crowds with tear gas and water cannon, prompting Pres Aoun to ask the military to restore peace and order on the streets of Beirut, as the city saw fierce clashes between protesters and security forces. Aoun called on the military to “protect the safety of peaceful protesters and of public and private property.”

Crowds have taken to the streets of Beirut in a massive protest against Lebanon’s soaring debt, which stands at about $87b, equal to more than 150% of GDP. The public unrest is also fueled by an almost three-months-long power vacuum and by a crippling economic crisis. The rallies, held under the slogan “We will not pay the price,” soon descended into violence, as crowds of protesters sought to break through police cordons around the parliament, prompting officers to use tear gas.

The protesters pelted police with stones and firecrackers. Others removed street signs and metal barriers, and hurled them at officers. Police responded with water cannons. Clouds of tear gas also soon filled the streets in the city center, scene of some of the most intense standoffs between the demonstrators and the law enforcement. At least 220 people were injured in the Beirut clashes, the Lebanese Red Cross/Red Crescent has told AP, adding that 80 of them were hospitalized while some 140 others were treated on the spot. The head of the Red Cross, George Kettneh said that the number of the injured includes both demonstrators and members of the law enforcement.

At some point, a tent camp, erected by the protesters in one of Beirut’s central districts months ago, caught on fire. The flames quickly engulfed dozens of tents leading to a major blaze right in the city center.

Some people on Twitter suggested security forces might have set the tents on fire to stop a crowd from marching on parliament. However, the exact cause of the blaze still remains unclear and there have been no official comments on this matter.

Massive protests have repeatedly been gripping Beirut and other Lebanese cities for months, despite Lebanese PM Saad Hariri’s resignation in October. No government has been formed ever since, as political parties continue to argue over its composition. The protesters, which had accused Hariri of corruption, demand that all posts in the new government are assumed solely by independent technocrats. The public anger is not directed only against the government: lately, protesters have blocked major highways and vandalized some bank offices as they began the so-called “week of wrath.”

Protesters in Lebanon smash banks in ‘week of rage’ as financial crisis bites
Richard Hall, Independent, Jan 18 2020

A ‘protester’ smashes the window of a bank in Beirut ( Reuters )

‘Protesters’ in Lebanon have turned their ire towards banks during a ‘week of rage,’ attacking financial institutions that many blame for the country’s worst economic crisis in decades. Nearly 300 banks and ATMs were targeted during demonstrations across the country, according to police. There has been a large number of ‘protests’ in a busy commercial district of Beirut which sparked running battles with police for several nights in a row. Some 352 people were arrested during the disturbances, before eventually being released following protests outside police stations. Lebanon has been paralysed by large-scale demonstrations for three months, driven by anger at the country’s political class, entrenched corruption and an economic crisis. The country is one of the most indebted in the world, with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 152%. In the 2016 budget, interest payments accounted for almost half of all government spending. The economic crisis has deepened in recent weeks as banks have imposed informal capital controls, which have placed restrictions on how much money customers can withdraw. As the value of the Lebanese pound continues to slide, many people are seeing their savings disappear. ‘Protesters’ say anger over the actions of the banks during the crisis has been fuelled by a long-held perception that the financial industry has a symbiotic relationship with Lebanon’s political class that has enriched a small, corrupt few, at the expense of the entire country. Nour Jadid, a 23-year-old who works in marketing, says at a ‘protest’ outside Lebanon’s central bank on Thursday evening:

We have always known what is causing the problems, but we couldn’t change anything without the numbers of people in the street. They can’t fix it. They have lied about how much they have in savings and now it is showing. This is why we are having this crisis. We don’t trust them anymore. We are facing a monster, and the only way to beat it is with another monster.

At the root of Lebanon’s economic crisis is an unbalanced economy that was propped up for years by unsustainable financial engineering. Lebanon relies on imports from abroad. Keeping these import costs stable requires the country’s currency to be pegged to the Pindo dollar, and maintaining that peg requires a regular supply of dollars into the country. Most of this supply came from remittances from abroad, but as they have slowed in recent years, Lebanon’s central bank pushed interest rates sky-high to entice depositors. But it was not enough. When the financial crisis began to bite, people began withdrawing their money from Lebanon. Dollars became increasingly scarce, because local banks had deposited their customers’ money in the central bank to profit from high interest rates. The dollar peg became unsustainable, and the value of the Lebanese pound dropped dramatically. The crisis has seen people’s salaries cut and the price of food and goods skyrocket. Many now fear their savings will be wiped out. To stop the haemorrhaging of money from the financial system, banks placed informal restrictions on how much money their customers can withdraw. These controls have stoked public anger and led to almost daily confrontations and fights at banks between staff and customers. In one video that was posted online and later went viral, a woman is seen weeping inside a bank after being told she cannot withdraw her money. In another, a man launches himself into a scuffle between police and bank customers during a confrontation.

Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut, says:

To the public, the banks are the face of a business elite that has capitalised and got into bed with the political elite and made a lot of money. The banks are at the heart of this economic crisis. Their behaviour over the past few years has contributed to the situation that we are in today. The restrictions on withdrawals have added insult to injury. The feeling is now that you guys made a lot of money and yet we don’t have access to our savings, to our salaries. It’s very humiliating the way the banks are dealing with the public.

23-year-old Ziad Eldanaf, a philosophy student, was also at the ‘protest’ outside Lebanon’s central bank on Thursday evening and says:

This isn’t affecting the politicians, of course. The banks revolve around political figures here. We believe the banks are part of the oligarchy ruling Lebanon. It’s not a formal thing. The banks can give money if they know the person or they have power. It is the people who don’t have connections who are being damaged by this.

After three months of demonstrations, Lebanon appears no closer to finding its way out of the crisis. In a country where politics is usually divided along sectarian lines, protesters have called for a complete overhaul of the sectarian political system and a technocratic government. Saad Hariri resigned two weeks into the demonstrations. Hassan Diab was nominated by Hezbollah and its political allies, which make up the largest bloc in parliament, to form a new government. But protesters have become frustrated with the slow progress, which prompted the ‘week of rage.’ The paralysis also prompted the UN coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis, to write on Twitter:

Another day of confusion around the formation of a government, amidst the increasingly angry protests and free-falling economy. Politicians, don’t blame the people, blame yourselves for this dangerous chaos.

Among the protesters who have taken to the streets over the past three months, there now exists a keen awareness about the culprits of Lebanon’s woes, and a new focus to target them.

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