Protests sweep Lebanon for a second day

Nellie Chapman
October 18, 2019

The government unveiled a new revenue-raising measure earlier on Thursday, agreeing a charge of 20 cents a day for calls via voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP), used by applications including WhatsApp, Facebook FB.O calls and FaceTime.

Time and again, the protesters shouted "Revolution!" and "The people want to bring down the regime", echoing a refrain chanted by demonstrators during Arab Spring uprisings that swept the region in 2011.

Protesters also closed roads in other parts of Lebanon.

The embassy urged, in a statement, the Kuwaiti citizens to adhere to the security instructions, set by the Lebanese authorities, and contact the embassy in case of any emergency via the following phone number: 0096171171441.

But as protests spread across Lebanon, Telecoms Minister Mohamed Choucair told journalists the proposed levy on WhatsApp calls had been revoked.

Thousands of Lebanese have taken to the streets amid an economic crisis that many blame on the government.

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"We are not here over the WhatsApp, we are here over everything: over fuel, food, bread, over everything", said a protester in Beirut who gave his name as Abdullah.

Forty members of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (ISF) were wounded in the protests, the ISF said in a tweet.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri may cancel Friday's cabinet meeting, a website linked to his party said, as protesters gathered around the government's headquarters. He was expected to address the nation later in the day.

Persistent instability in Lebanon has shaken investor confidence and made it harder to revive an economy already struggling to absorb more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled the crisis in neighboring Syria.

In June, the Lebanese parliament passed an austerity budget to comply with the demands of global donors, who a year ago pledged $11 billion to finance a plan to revive Lebanon's economy. Worldwide donors pledged $11 billion for Lebanon but they sought to ensure the money is well spent in the corruption-plagued country.

Despite tens of billions of dollars spent since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990, Lebanon still has crumbling infrastructure, including daily electricity cuts, piles of rubbish in the streets and often sporadic, limited water supplies from the state-owned water company.

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