Saturday, October 19, 2019

In Lebanon - "I fight to live"

In Lebanon in another example of the growing global discontent, demonstrators who are angry over plans to impose new taxes amid rising costs of living, chanted "Revolution! Revolution!" and "The people demand the fall of the regime". They also accused Lebanon's top leaders of corruption, and called for the country's strict banking secrecy laws to be lifted so that state funds stolen over the decades to be returned to the treasury. Lebanese from all sections of this divided country and all walks of life have come out on to the streets, waving banners and chanting slogans urging Hariri’s government to go. No political leader, Muslim or Christian, was spared their wrath.  Shi’ite protesters also attacked the offices of their deputies from the influential Hezbollah. Sectarian politicians, many of them civil war militia leaders, have used state resources for their own benefit and are reluctant to give that up.

They shouted: “Our demands are one, our objective is one: the people want the downfall of the regime.”   

"Everyone is tired of this, the situation is horrible, people have no money, the people are falling apart, and all they give us is taxes, taxes, taxes," said Samir Shmaysri, a 39-year old from Beirut.  "There's no reform process to even hope for the situation to get better."
"We want to change the situation in the country, that's it," said one protester who was blocking a road with a flaming rubbish bin near Beirut's Ras al-Nabaa area, just outside downtown. "We've tried being peaceful, it hasn't worked."
"This regime is totally corrupt,” said Fadi Issa, 51, who marched with his son. “They are all thieves, they come into the government to fill their pockets, not to serve the country.”
The demonstrations began on Thursday after the cash-strapped government announced plans to impose new taxes, including on WhatsApp voice calls. Overnight on Friday, protesters blocked streets across the country by burning tyres, and in some areas set fire to buildings and vandalised shops. Amid the unrest, banks, shops and schools closed operations on Friday, and Saudi Arabia said it was evacuating its citizens from the country. The anger prompted the Lebanese government to scrap plans for taxes on WhatsApp calls, but the measure did little to placate protesters. 
The protests come amid a worsening economic and financial crisis in  Lebanon that many blame on the small number of sectarian politicians who have ruled the country since its 15-year civil war came to an end in 1990. They also come just two days after the worst forest fires in more than 10 years, causing outrage among citizens who blamed the government's shortcomings for the scale of the damage. The government is assessing a series of further belt-tightening measures it hopes will rescue the country's ailing economy and secure $11bn in aid pledged by international donors last year.
In Nabatieh, hundreds of men headed to the homes of local parliament members, including Yassine Jaber and Hani Qobeissi of the Amal Movement - headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri - and the leader of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, Mohammad Raad.
"Speaker Berri's appetite hasn't been satisfied in 30 years," one man, who identified himself as a father of two, told reporters in Nabatieh.

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