A third day of demonstrations in Lebanon to denounce the corruption of the political class

The Lebanese Party of Forces announced in the evening, its exit from the government after tens of thousands of Lebanese have again demonstrated Saturday, October 19.

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Protesters were several tens of thousands to gather for a third day to denounce their fed up. Here, in the center of the capital Beirut, on October 19th. MOHAMED AZAKIR / REUTERS

Lebanese Forces (Christian) party leader Samir Geagea announced Saturday (October 19th) the departure of his movement from the government, amid intense political and social crisis in his country.

"We are now convinced that the government is unable to take the necessary steps to save the situation. As a result (our) bloc decided to ask its ministers to resign ", did he declare.

Tens of thousands of Lebanese gathered on Saturday across the country for a third day of protests against politicians accused of corruption, an unrelenting movement that has paralyzed the country since Thursday.

Despite calls for restraint from several politicians and a tough police intervention on Friday night and dozens of arrests, protesters rallied in several cities across the country. The ranks of protesters have grown steadily in central Beirut as well as in Tripoli, the country's second largest city, but also in Tyr (south), Akkar (north) and Baalbeck (south).

"Revolution, revolution"chanted protesters in the capital, some wearing a scarf around their faces after tear gas was fired the day before. " People want the fall of the regime »they also hammered.

Amnesty International has called on the authorities "To put an immediate end to the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters". The police forces launched"Huge amounts of tear gas" against the crowd, "Pursued demonstrators in the streets (…) and hit them", the NGO said in a statement.

An equivocal poster shares Lebanese flags in the Martyrs' Square in Beirut on October 19, 2019.
An equivocal poster reads Lebanese flags on the Martyrs' Square in Beirut on October 19, 2019. PATRICK BAZ / AFP

More than a quarter of the Lebanese population lives below the poverty line

Several roads were blocked by barricades erected by protesters or tires and fire dumpsters. In the morning, the army reopened highways, while volunteers cleared Beirut's center. Glass debris from store windows and vandalized banks littered the floor, while pieces of metal sheets had been installed in front of storefronts to protect them. Banks were still closed on Saturday.

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In a statement, the army on Saturday called the demonstrators to "To express oneself peacefully without harming public and private property". The security services have reported "The arrest of 70 people for acts of sabotage, fire and burglary in the city center". But in the early afternoon, "All prisoners" of one of the main police barracks in the capital have been released, according to the National Information Agency (ANI).

The protest movement was triggered by the announcement Thursday of a new tax on calls made via WhatsApp and Viber applications, canceled in stride. The protesters condemn all the leaders calling them "Thieves". More than a quarter of the Lebanese population lives below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. The political class, almost unchanged since the civil war (1975-1990), is accused of corruption and nepotism in a country with decaying infrastructure.

The protests spread to Tire, as in Tripoli

As rare as it is striking, the movement has won several strongholds from the powerful Shiite movement of Hezbollah and its ally Amal. In Tire, where the powerful leader of Parliament and leader of the Amal party, Nabih Berri, had been accused of fraud the day before by the demonstrators, dozens of his supporters attacked the protesters Saturday, according to a witness. In a statement, Amal denounced these assaults, claiming to want "Open an investigation".

In Tripoli, in the north of the country, teachers and students rallied the protesters. Hoda Sayyour, in her fifties, assures that she does not want to desert the street. "They exploit us and do nothing to improve services"she laments.

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After insinuating Friday that he could resign, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the parties represented in his government – which he accuses of obstructing his reform efforts. He held consultations on Saturday with MPs, ministers and economists.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Shi'ite Hezbollah, has objected to a "To answer the resounding message" Some protestors. His speech sparked the ire of some of them. "Lebanon is more important than Syria! ", launched one of them on a local channel, alluding to Hezbollah fighting alongside Bashar al-Assad's regime in the nearby Syrian war.

This new day of mobilization was reminiscent of the unprecedented popular uprising in 2005 that ended 29 years of Syrian tutelage over Lebanon.


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