BEIRUT (AP) — A general strike by public transportation and labor unions paralyzed Lebanon Thursday as the country suffers one of the world’s worst economic crises.
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.
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.
In the capital of Beirut, many roads were blocked by giant trash bins and vehicles.
About 80% of people in Lebanon live in poverty after the Lebanese pound lost more than 90% of its value. Lebanon’s economy shrank 20.3 in 2020 and about 7% 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.”