Lebanon currency crisis: Dozens hurt in second night of clashes

Lebanon currency crisis: Dozens hurt in second night of clashes”

Hundreds of Lebanese protested for a second night on Friday against authorities' handling of an economic crisis that has seen the local currency depreciate by more than 25 percent in recent days.

The head of the Money Exchange Syndicate, Mahmoud Mrad, told reporters that the central bank governor had promised to inject U.S. dollars into the Lebanese market to prop up the country's currency.

Hezbollah supporters joined the demonstrations late Thursday, despite usually being against the protest movement since October 17. The prolonged economic downturn was the major grievance that sparked unprecedented mass protests in October previous year against the political class, accused of corruption and incompetence.

Local television reported security forces firing tear gas to disperse protesters who threw stones near Riad Al Solh square in central Beirut.

Lebanon is in the grip of its worst economic turmoil in decades and holding talks with the International Monetary Fund to secure billions in aid.

"What happened [on Thursday] as a result of the high price of the dollar without any justification, makes us wonder if the number given to the dollar price is a rumour that has been circulated to make people take to the streets and for confrontations take place", he said.

In one incident in central Beirut, roughly 200 young men gathered on mopeds, some of them defacing shop fronts and setting fire to stores.

More news: Severe thunderstorms with 60 miles per hour winds, large hail possible for Wednesday

Prime Minister Hassan Diab canceled his meetings and called for an emergency session to discuss the financial crisis, while the Central Bank's governor urged foreign exchange bureaus to stick to the rate he had ordered.

The new nadir came despite government pledges to halt the pound's devaluation, and the money changers' union issuing a maximum daily buying rate of 3,890 and selling rate of 3,940.

Lebanese banks have gradually restricted dollar withdrawals since late past year, forcing those in need to buy them at a higher rate on the black market.

More than 35 percent of Lebanese are unemployed, while poverty has soared to 45 percent of the population, according to official estimates.

It has also sparked steep inflation, including on imported products.

This afternoon, the government announced it would take steps to lower the exchange rate of the pound in an effort to mitigate the situation.

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