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Protests as currency slides, price of bread rises in Lebanon

SeattlePI.com Tuesday, 30 June 2020 ()
BEIRUT (AP) — Protesters closed several major roads in the Lebanese capital Beirut on Tuesday amid rising anger as the currency hit a new record low on the black market, electricity cuts increased and the government raised the price of bread for the first time in more than a decade.

Reflecting the deteriorating conditions in Lebanon and sharp increase of food prices, the Lebanese army stopped offering meat in meals given to soldiers while on duty because the military “is suffering from difficult economic conditions,” the state-run National News Agency reported.

The small country of 5 million people and more than a million Syrian refugees is going through an unprecedented economic meltdown that has seen the local currency lose more than 80% of its value against the U.S. dollar in recent months amid soaring prices and popular unrest.

Lebanon, one of the most indebted nations in the world, has asked the International Monetary Fund for a bailout after defaulting on its sovereign debt, but the talks appear to be faltering, with hardly any progress made after more than 15 sessions.

On Monday, the director general of the Finance Ministry resigned from the post he held for 20 years as the crisis worsened.

As prices increased over the past weeks, people have been rushing to supermarkets and groceries to buy goods. On Tuesday afternoon, Al-Makhazen Coop, one of the largest retailers in the country closed its stores in Beirut.

Outside one of the branches in Beirut’s commercial Hamra district, an employee said they were running out of some products and they plan to open again on Wednesday. A statement posted at the gate apologized that some products were not available amid a rush by people to buy stuff.

Economy Minister Raoul Nehme told reporters after a Cabinet meeting...
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