Lebanese Protesters Set Central Bank on Fire
In response to hyperinflation and runaway debt
Demonstrators in Lebanon attempted to occupy the central bank in the capital Thursday after the country’s currency sank to a record low against the US dollar.
As a result of the nation’s economic crisis, the dollar rose to 6,000 Lebanese pounds from 4,000 in the last two days, prompting protesters to take to the streets in Beirut and many other cities.
They blocked roads to traffic with garbage containers and burning tires.
Forcing their way into the central bank on Hamra Street, they had to withdraw when security forces intervened.
Security forces also responded to those who set fires in front of the government palace and damaged surrounding shops.
The Lebanese Red Cross said on Twitter that 33 people injured in the protests in the city of Tripoli were given first aid while eight others were taken to the hospital.
Lebanon is suffering from high unemployment, slow growth and one of the highest debt ratios in the world.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the situation in the country, with the government extending measures to curb the spread of the virus.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Lebanon has risen to 1,402 with 31 deaths, while 845 patients have recovered so far.
Joyce Karam of United Arab Emirates-based media outlet TheNational reported June 11 that the Lebanese pound (LBP) is trading for more than 5,000 per $1 in spite of the country’s official peg of 1,507 per dollar— a 20% depreciation since April, and over 230% since the peg was respected in January.
However, recent reports also indicate that an increasing number of protestors are embracing Bitcoin (BTC) as a means of bypassing Lebanon’s failing monetary system.
Banks burn as unrest grows
On June 12, Reuters reported that Lebanon’s central bank will begin injecting funds into its currency market in a bid to stem the rapid depreciation that has escalated tensions and local unrest.
The report notes some currency dealers have already responded to the central bank’s move, lowering prices down to roughly 4,500 pounds per dollar. Government officials have also pledged to take action intended to reduce its value to roughly 3,000 pounds per $1.
However, recent attempts by politicians to quell the country’s deepening economic crisis have been largely unsuccessful, with protestors having erupted into multiple demonstrations targeting banks with rocks and fire in recent months while Lebanese officials racked up record debts.
Bitcoin grows in popularity as currency plummets
Amid the turmoil, an increasing number of Lebanese citizens are turning to Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, with Nikkei Asian Review reporting that digital assets are “being embraced as an alternative to dollar assets” among the country’s protesters.
However, confusion surrounding the value of Lebanese fiat has led to erratic prices being listed on peer-to-peer Bitcoin marketplace Localbitcoins — with current buy listings ranging from 19 million LBP to 57 million LBP per BTC, while sell offers range from 12.5 million to 40 million.
Bitcoin is increasingly gaining popularity as an alternative store of value in country’s facing violent hyperinflation, with Venezuela long comprising a leading market by volume on Localbitcoins.
Source: Coin Telegraph