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Big anti-government protests swell across Lebanon

Reuters/Beirut
Filed on October 20, 2019 | Last updated on October 20, 2019 at 10.16 pm
lebanon, protests, anti-government, swell

(AP file)

A sea of people, some draped in or holding Lebanese flags, crammed roads nationwide for a fourth day.

Massive protests swelled across Lebanon on Sunday in an unprecedented show of dissent against its ruling elite as hundreds of thousands converged to demand the overthrow of a system they see as riddled with corruption and cronyism.

A sea of people, some draped in or holding Lebanese flags, crammed roads nationwide for a fourth day, calling for revolution in protests that resembled the 2011 Arab revolts that toppled four presidents.

Cheerful, buoyant and hopeful their protests would bring change, people of all ages and religions played patriotic songs and danced in the streets, with some forming human chains and chanting for their leaders to be ousted.

"I am here because I am disgusted by our politicians. Nothing works. This is not a state. Salaries are very low, prices are very high. We don't even have work these days," said Cherine Shawa, 32, an interior architect, in Beirut.

"We're here to say to our leaders 'leave'. We have no hope in them but we're hopeful that these protests will bring change," Hanan Takkouche, in her 40s and among a group of women in the capital. "They came to fill their pockets. They're all crooks and thieves," she added.
Ending rampant corruption is a central demand of the protesters, who say the country's leaders have used their positions to enrich themselves for decades through favourable deals and kickbacks.

The mounting unrest has piled pressure on Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri to deliver a package of badly needed reforms to bring the country's crumbling economy, which has one of the world's highest debt levels, back from the brink.

Hariri, who is leading a coalition government mired by sectarian and political rivalries, gave his feuding government partners a 72-hour deadline on Friday to agree reforms that could ward off crisis, hinting he may otherwise resign.

He accused his rivals of obstructing budget measures that could unlock $11 billion in Western donor pledges and help avert economic collapse.

Banks said they would remain closed on Monday, the start of the working week, and the country's main labour union announced a general strike, threatening further paralysis.


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