Violent protests in Beirut follow Lebanon’s cabinet meeting

Violent protests in Beirut follow Lebanon’s cabinet meeting

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Police have used water cannon to contain protesters throwing rocks during anti-government demonstrations in Beirut.

The clashes erupted as Lebanon’s new government convened on Wednesday, a day after it was formed following a three-month political vacuum.

New Prime Minister Hassan Diab said his cabinet will adopt financial and economic methods different from those of previous governments.

Protesters in and around Beirut gathered in the capital to denounce the meeting, describing it as a rubber stamp for the same political parties they blame for widespread corruption.

Windows were smashed and stones thrown as protesters broke down security barriers surrounding Lebanon’s parliament. Lebanese Red Cross said it moved the wounded from central Beirut to nearby hospitals.

“Protesting peacefully won’t give results. We protested peacefully for three months. Why should we stay peaceful?” said one student protester who had his face covered.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from the protests, said: “These protesters don’t seem to be afraid of what comes next.”

“This is not going to be easy to contain,” she said.

The formation of a new government on Tuesday failed to satisfy protesters, who were demanding a new cabinet composed of technocrats and not members belonging to the current political elite which is held responsible for the country’s economic crisis.

“People believe this was a slap in the face,” added Khodr, referring to the 20-member new cabinet.

“They feel they are not being respected as citizens of this country and it does not meet the demonstrators’ expectations.”

Yassine, a protester, said people were out on the streets again because “our voice has not been heard by this corrupt government”.

Panic and anger have gripped the public as their local currency, pegged to the dollar for more than two decades, plummeted. The Lebanese pound lost more than 60 percent of its value in recent weeks on the black market.

The economy has seen no growth and foreign inflows dried up in the already heavily indebted country that relies on imports for most of its basic goods.

“I cannot take my children to a hospital to get treatment because of the politicians,” a protester was heard shouting while addressing security forces.

The demonstrations, which have mostly been peaceful since their beginning three months ago, turned violent on Saturday and Sunday. The escalation has seen more than 540 people wounded.

Security forces have been accused of excessive use of violence as well as ill-treatment during police detention by international human rights organisation.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the security force response as “brutal” and called for an urgent end to a “culture of impunity” for police abuse.

Prior to Diab’s new cabinet, the country had been without an effective government since caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in October under pressure from protests against state corruption and mismanagement.__Al Jazeera

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