Protesters storm banking association in Lebanon

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Four protesters stormed the headquarters of The Association of Banks in Lebanon on Friday locking one of its gates with a chain and preventing people from entering or leaving the building.

The protesters chanted slogans against the banks, the dollarized economy and capitalism.

Lebanon’s private banks reopened on Friday amid boosted security after a two-week closure because of anti-government protests that have paralyzed the country.

The protesters have directed much of their rage at the banks, and one of the most popular chants referred to central bank governor Riad Salameh as a “thief.”

Commercial banks are largely owned by ruling politicians and profit from holding public debt. Lebanon is 86 billion US dollars in debt, accounting for 150% of its GDP.

The bank closures have taken a toll on ordinary Lebanese, preventing employers from distributing salaries.

Small businesses that need foreign currency to import products have had to do without or turn to a newly emerged black market.

The Lebanese pound has been pegged to the dollar at an official rate of 1,507 to the dollar since 1997. Exchange shops are now trading at 1,900 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, a devaluation of more than 25%.

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