Strike Paralyzes Lebanon Amid Worsening Economic Conditions

Roads were blocked across Lebanon as a general strike kicks off in protest of deteriorating living conditions

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A truck driver holds a Lebanese flag as others block a main highway during a general strike in protest to the country's deteriorating economic and financial conditions, in Beirut, on Thursday.
A truck driver holds a Lebanese flag as others block a main highway during a general strike in protest to the country's deteriorating economic and financial conditions, in Beirut, on Thursday.Credit: Bilal Hussein/AP

Lebanese truck and bus drivers and others blocked main roads in the capital and other areas on Thursday amid a nation-wide general strike in protest of the failure of the country's political elites to address an economic crisis that has sent the currency into tailspin and driven prices sky high.

Kickstarted in the early morning hours, the strike was called by the public transport workers' unions as well as the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers.

"I tell everyone that if there is a protest or demonstration against this situation, go to the street. If we wait for our leaders or parties, no one will care," said Mohamed al-Muqdad, 58, at a demonstration at a main intersection in a Beirut suburb.

"I want any official – the president, the prime minister, the speaker of parliament – to try to live for one day with the salary of a poor worker. Let's see how they will do it," he said as dozens of trucks blocked traffic.

Similar actions clogged routes elsewhere in the country.

A garbage bin placed by taxi drivers blocks a road during a protest against spiraling gas prices and worsening economic conditions, in Sidon, on Thursday.Credit: Aziz Taher/Reuters

The move comes as the country’s ruling class has done almost nothing to try to pull the country out of its meltdown, rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement.

The political class that has run the small nation of 6 million people, including 1 million Syrian refugees, since the 1975-90 civil war is resisting reforms demanded by the international community.

Universities and schools were closed all over Lebanon and many people were not able to reach work because of road closures.

Protesters closed the country’s major highways as well as roads inside cities and towns starting at 5 a.m. The nationwide protests, dubbed a “day of rage,” are scheduled to last 12 hours, although some local protest leaders have insisted they will continue until their demands are met.

Taxi and truck drivers used their vehicles to block roads to protest a sharp increase in fuel prices as the government lifted subsidies. They are demanding getting subsidized fuel again.

Soldiers walk on a main highway that blocked by tanker trucks and buses, during a general strike, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Thursday.Credit: Hussein Malla/AP

In the capital of Beirut, many roads were blocked by giant trash bins and vehicles.

About 80 percent of people in Lebanon live in poverty after the Lebanese pound lost more than 90 percent of its value. Lebanon’s economy shrank by 20.3 percent in 2020 and about 7 percent last year, according to the World Bank.

Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2022 released Thursday that “the corrupt and incompetent Lebanese authorities have deliberately” plunged the country into one of the worst economic crises in modern times, demonstrating a disregard for the rights of the population.

It called for the international community to use “every tool at its disposal to pressure Lebanese policymakers to put in place the reforms necessary to pull Lebanon out of this crisis,” said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch. She added that they should include imposing sanctions against leaders responsible for the “ongoing grave human rights violations.”

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