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Agencies
October 19, 2019

Lebanon paralysed by protests over proposed taxes

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Agencies
October 19, 2019

BEIRUT: Nationwide protests have paralysed Lebanon as demonstrators blocked major roads in a second day of rallies against the government’s management of a severe economic crisis and proposed new taxes.

The protests were the largest since 2015, and could further destabilise a country with one of the highest debt loads in the world.The protests could plunge Lebanon into a political crisis with unpredictable repercussions for the economy, which has been in steady decline. Some of the protesters said they would stay in the streets until the government resigns.

Schools, banks and businesses shut down as the protests escalated and widened to reach almost every city and province.Hundreds of people burned tyres in suburbs of the capital Beirut, and in northern and southern cities, sending up clouds of black smoke in scattered protests. The road to Beirut’s international airport was blocked.

The demonstrations, which began on Thursday evening, were sparked when the government announced plans for new taxes, including on voice calls made through messaging applications including WhatsApp.

In some cases the demonstrations evolved into riots as protesters set fire to buildings and smashed shop windows, taking their anger out on politicians they accuse of corruption and decades of mismanagement.

Prime minister Saad Hariri cancelled a cabinet meeting scheduled for Friday to resume discussions, and is expected to address the nation later. Interior minister Raya al-Hassan insisted he would not resign, saying that could spark a national crisis more dangerous than the current economic troubles.

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