Líbano

An antigovernment protester in Beirut on Monday. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

Once the breadbasket of the Eastern Mediterranean, Lebanon is facing a dramatic challenge that seemed unimaginable a decade ago: the risk of a major food crisis. A few weeks ago, Lebanon witnessed its first “hunger protests.” Many Lebanese have already stopped buying meat, fruits and vegetables, and may soon find it difficult to afford even bread. Human Rights Watch and the World Bank have both warned that over half of Lebanese households may not be able to afford to purchase food by the end of the year.

How did we get here? Lebanon and its people have been struck by a triple crisis.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesting against the government’s failure to check increasing prices and falling currency, in Beirut, Lebanon, last month. Credit Nabil Mounzer/EPA, via Shutterstock

Two weeks ago, it seemed every conversation in Lebanon was about keeping safe from the virus. The bustling streets of Beirut were quiet; everyone wore masks and gloves and glared at anyone who coughed in public. The smell of hand sanitizers filled elevators.

Back from my grocery runs, I disinfected everything I bought and put my plastic bags on the balcony for a week before reusing them. Last week I came back from the store and nearly forgot to wash my hands as I pulled out the grocery bill and pointed out the exorbitant prices to my husband. We crossed out things we could no longer regularly afford, like cheese.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Lebanese army soldier throws a tear-gas canister toward anti-government protesters in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon, on Tuesday. (Bilal Hussein/AP)

As in any other country now under lockdown during the covid-19 outbreak, things were quiet in Lebanon.

For weeks, social media feeds were full of photos of clear Beirut skylines without the regular unpleasant smog and beautiful migratory birds on the country’s coast and valleys. It was so quiet, you wouldn’t think that the country had been rocked by months of protests and riots because of a damning economic crisis — or that these tensions were on the verge of erupting yet again.

Yet that is precisely what happened this week, as unrest began to erupt across the country. The novel coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic fallout have only exacerbated the conditions that have driven Lebanese to the streets since last October, resulting in the resignation of then-Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the appointment of Hassan Diab as his successor.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protests against economic conditions and government inaction turned violent in January. Photo: Getty Images.

To understand Lebanon’s financial collapse, look to its politics.

The country has been deeply damaged by an increasingly dysfunctional political system. A series of compromises have alienated it from its main markets in the Gulf and strangled its economy; anyone that has glanced at fluctuations in Lebanese bank deposits over the last 10 years can see the correlation.

Imagine if Boris Johnson or Donald Trump were obliged to form joint governments with Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders. The result would be paralysis and lack of accountability as each party pulls the country in opposite directions and blames the other for the state of limbo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Alice welcomed us into her crammed street-level apartment right off a narrow street with tangled electricity cables in Nabaa, a suburb near Beirut. Alongside her daughter and 2-year-old grandson, she shared their harrowing story of coping as Lebanon’s economy continues to plummet. Despite her age (early 60s) and feeble body, Madame Alice — as she introduced herself — has found herself working again, rummaging through garbage bins in a nearby neighborhood for recyclable cans that she could sell for every week for a few dollars.

My heart sank into my stomach as I translated her story to a correspondent and crew from an international television news channel.…  Seguir leyendo »

Une femme pose sur le le dôme d’un ancien cinéma désaffecté appelé «l'Oeuf», lieu devenu un point de ralliement lors des contestations récentes, à Beyrouth, le 9 novembre. Photo Andres Martinez Casares. REUTERS

Depuis plus de cent jours déjà, les Libanais ne décolèrent pas. Leur détermination a pris de court une classe politique indéboulonnable, qui continue pourtant ses manœuvres politiciennes, sans rien changer à sa compréhension de l’exercice du pouvoir.

Nombreux sont ceux qui décrivent la «révolution d’octobre» comme un point pivot. Le fait qu’un nombre considérable de Libanais se soit mobilisé face au pouvoir en place, toutes confessions, opinions politiques et classes sociales confondues, incarnerait la fin réelle de la guerre civile (1975-1990). Celle-ci jouait les prolongations, les hommes de guerre étant devenus les leaders politiques d’aujourd’hui et les divisions communautaires persistant, sur fond d’absence de travail de mémoire, de justice et de pardon.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Parliament in Beirut, Lebanon, last week after the creation of a new government.Credit...Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

On Jan. 21, Lebanese leaders agreed to form a new government.

It had been a long time coming: The previous government, led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the country’s top Sunni politician, resigned in October. That was two weeks after protests erupted across the country, seeking to topple the corrupt, sectarian elite that has ruled since the end of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war in 1990. The protesters demanded a new cabinet, led by specialists.

After dragging its feet, the Lebanese political establishment has at last offered one. Though a coalition of Western-leaning groups, including Mr. Hariri’s Future Movement, decided not to participate, the new government is hardly a break from the old: Some of its technocratic members are connected to parties allied with Hezbollah.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tormenta perfecta en el Líbano

En retrospectiva, solemos ver a las crisis financieras como si hubieran estado predeterminadas; pero rara vez aportan mucha claridad sobre la dirección de la historia. Ese es ciertamente el caso del Líbano en la actualidad, donde una crisis predecible ha sumido al país a un estado de profunda incertidumbre.

Desde el final de su prolongada guerra civil (1975-1990), mantuvo su economía y sistema político con endeudamiento externo, lo que condujo inevitablemente a niveles insostenibles de deuda pública. En algún punto, el ingreso de los flujos de capital iba a detenerse. Ese momento llegó a fines de 2019, después de una serie de shocks negativos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Patrick Baz/AFP via Getty Images

In mid-November, when protests against Lebanon’s venal, incompetent, and bankrupt government had already been taking place for three weeks, President Michel Aoun dismissed the demonstrators: if they weren’t satisfied with the country’s political leadership, they should “emigrate.” But young Lebanese have been doing just that, by the thousands, for decades. The country runs, to a large extent, on the money they send home. In 2018, the remittances of the huge Lebanese diaspora accounted for about 13 percent of the country’s GDP.

Until recently, there were three options for young people in Lebanon, a friend told me when I visited the country last month: you could join one of the country’s sectarian factions, trading loyalty for patronage; “go into internal exile, smoking pot with your ten friends”; or get out.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pour la première fois depuis la fin de la guerre civile, en 1990, les Libanais sont unis dans une révolte, indépendamment de leurs origines sociales, géographiques ou religieuses. Les manifestants réclament la fin d’un régime politique corrompu, maintenu par une élite qui leur a trop longtemps nié la possibilité de vivre de manière décente.

Les revendications des manifestants ne sont pas surprenantes lorsqu’on regarde les chiffres. Le Liban fait partie des pays les plus inégalitaires du monde, à côté du Chili, du Brésil ou encore de l’Afrique du Sud. Dans une étude publiée par le Laboratoire sur les inégalités mondiales, j’ai pu estimer la répartition du revenu national libanais entre 2005 et 2014.…  Seguir leyendo »

« “Maudite soit la peur” ont écrit plus d’un, mur et bitume en témoignent. » Ghassan Salhab

Et l’on se réveille comme dans ces quelques mots d’Alice : « Je me demande si on m’a changée pendant la nuit ? ».

Plus d’un compte, Jour 1, Jour 2, Jour 3, Jour 4, Jour 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11…, d’enthousiasme ou d’appréhension, des deux à la fois peut-être. Je ne veux, je n’ose compter.

Comment rendre compte de ce qui se vit ici, de ce que nous vivons ici, de ce que je vis ici ? Comment rendre compte d’une telle intensité ? Un journal de bord, journal de bord du soulèvement ? Comment dire l’étendue et la diversité des sentiments éprouvés face à autant de disparités soudainement rassemblées ?…  Seguir leyendo »

Manifestation à Beyrouth, au Liban, le 18 octobre. Photo Stéphane Lagoutte. Myop

C’est une femme corpulente d’une cinquantaine d’années coiffée d’un bob aux couleurs du drapeau libanais qui se lève soudain dans ce restaurant huppé et entonne, au milieu de son déjeuner, l’hymne national. Je n’en reviens pas, les clients de toutes les tables se lèvent à leur tour, tous sans exception, et l’accompagnent à pleine voix. Nous sommes tous pour la patrie ! A peine ont-ils fini qu’ils lèvent le poing pour hurler le cri de ralliement du soulèvement libanais : «Killone yaani killone !» «Tous, ça veut dire tous !» – c’est la classe politique tout entière qui est sommée de dégager.…  Seguir leyendo »

Manifestation à Beyrouth le 18 octobre après l’annonce par le gouvernement d’une taxe sur l’application WhatsApp. Photo Stéphane Lagoutte. Myop pour Libération

L’oud est un instrument à cordes arabe. Un luth, dont la voix profonde se situe à proximité de celle du violoncelle. Ce mardi 29 octobre au soir, son chant résonne sous les fenêtres du palais du Premier ministre. Il donne le rythme à une foule en ligne qui entame un dabke, la danse antique du monde est-méditerranéen, qui ne s’est jamais perdue. En fin de journée, le chef du gouvernement libanais, Saad Hariri, a présenté sa démission.

Une petite victoire. La grande est ailleurs.

Plus tôt dans l’après-midi, à l’heure où ceux qui nettoient après les manifestations de la veille font la sieste, et ceux qui viennent le soir ne sont pas encore arrivés, les partis chiites Amal et Hezbollah ont envoyé des groupes de casseurs briser la contestation.…  Seguir leyendo »

Lebanese anti-government protesters celebrate the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Oct. 29 on the 13th day of anti-government protests in Beirut. (Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, 13 days into the civilian-led uprising-turned-revolution, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned. This resignation, only nine months after the government was formed, resulted primarily from the pressure in the streets throughout the country.

The Lebanese government has once again failed to deliver on much-needed economic and sociopolitical reforms. What comes next? Almost any possibility is determined by the character and momentum of the protests, especially the continued pressure on the government. Here are three possible directions for the government’s next steps.

1 — Politicians could try to maintain the status quo.

My research shows that cross-sectarian bargains between Lebanon’s political elite are resilient and tend to form after moments of crises.…  Seguir leyendo »

Depuis le 17 octobre se produit au Liban un soulèvement populaire sans précédent. Des centaines de milliers de citoyens et citoyennes occupent les places des grandes et moyennes villes du pays. Ils réclament la chute du régime et des réformes économiques et politiques. L’ampleur de cette contestation, surprenante par sa forme, s’explique surtout par des raisons nées d’un contexte national bien particulier, caractérisé à la fois par l’accumulation des crises, le dépassement de clivages anciens, et des mobilisations bien au-delà de la seule capitale.

Le premier constat est que le soulèvement survient à la suite d’une succession de crises économiques et sociales et de scandales de corruption restés impunis.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters shouted anti-government slogans in Beirut on Oct. 21. (WAEL HAMZEH/EPA-EFE)

I’ve never been so torn in my life. My daughter needed me, but I wanted to join them desperately — not as a journalist but as a citizen. The protests started after the government tried to impose a tax on free WhatsApp calls. But they quickly grew into something larger — an uprising against a corrupt political and economic system only interested in keeping people divided.

I was glued to the TV, listening passionately to the crowd’s chants. I never thought a demonstration could change things, but this was different. Were they chanting “The president’s rule makes the country suffer hunger”?…  Seguir leyendo »

Une des choses les plus stupéfiantes dans le soulèvement du peuple libanais, c’est sa soudaineté et l’incroyable rapidité avec laquelle il s’est propagé pour mettre, après trois jours seulement, deux millions de personnes dans les rues, soit la moitié de la population du pays. Pourtant, depuis des années, la société libanaise semblait comme anesthésiée, prise en otage par un système de gouvernement basé sur le consensus et la coalition des partis politiques.

Ce système pervers et stérile avait permis de confisquer l’Etat au bénéfice de ces partis et de leurs chefs qui ont entrepris de noyauter les administrations publiques et les institutions et de monnayer le moindre service auquel tout un chacun a droit, transformant le rapport entre dirigeants et citoyens en rapport mafieux.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mashrou' Leila performing in London, last year.CreditCreditBurak Cingi/Redferns, via Getty Images

When Egypt and Jordan banned the Lebanese indie rock band Mashrou’ Leila a few years ago because of its openly gay frontman and its progressive lyrics addressing social and sexual taboos, many Lebanese declared that this would never happen in their country.

A religiously diverse nation, Lebanon has long been a haven for artists and writers from the region, even more so as oppressive regimes continue to clamp down on freedom of expression in the wake of the Arab uprisings.

But last week, after a 10-day campaign by Christian activists against Mashrou’ Leila, including blasphemy accusations, online bullying and death threats against its four members, the Byblos International Festival, a major local music event, scrapped a planned concert by the band.…  Seguir leyendo »

Street scene in the suburb of Dahieh, a Hezbollah stronghold on the outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon, 2012. Moises Saman/Magnum Photos

Lebanon is both the center of the world and a dead end. The broken little village of a planet that is sick. Chaotic, polluted, and corrupt beyond belief, this is a country where beauty and human warmth constantly find ways to break through. It is impossible to name that feeling of being assaulted and charmed at the same time. You are in the city center, you stroll down a sidewalk eighteen inches wide, assailed from all sides by the confusion of buildings and traffic, torn between the appeal of the sea and the stench of garbage, and suddenly your gaze is soothed by the play of light on a stone wall, by bougainvilleas cascading from an ancient balcony, by the balcony itself.…  Seguir leyendo »

Imagine 125 million refugees flooding into the United States (population: 328 million). That is what Lebanon has experienced on a per capita basis. Since 2011, this nation of 4 million people has seen an influx of some 1.5 million refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war next door. “I find it a miracle this country hasn’t exploded,” a Western diplomat told me last week. “Most countries would never have allowed this to happen.”

This is the dog that didn’t bark — perhaps the most surprising good-news story in the Middle East. Lebanon has always been on the verge of collapse because of divisions among Sunnis, Shiites, Druze and Christians.…  Seguir leyendo »