Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Protests around the world: Unrest continues in Lebanon, Bolivia, Sudan, Chile and Hong Kong

Here's the latest in each of the countries affected by unrest

After weeks of protests in numerous locations across the world, new unrest broke out in both Bolivia and Sudan on Monday, while protests continued in Lebanon, Chile and Hong Kong.

Here's the latest in each of the countries affected by violent clashes and unrest.

Lebanon

Facing escalating mass protests, the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri approved on Monday a package of economic reforms and a 2020 budget without new taxes, hoping to appease people in the streets. Protests swelled in the hours after the announcement, however, as many demonstrators scorned the package as "empty promises".

Hundreds of thousands of people have flooded public squares across the country in the largest protests in more than 15 years, unifying an often-divided public in their revolt against status-quo leaders who have ruled for three decades and brought the economy to the brink of disaster.

Sparked by proposed new taxes, the protests have shaken the country and leaders, who are scrambling to come up with concessions to appease the public.

Following a nearly five-hour Cabinet meeting, Mr Hariri announced a series of economic and financial reforms which he described as a "coup," saying no government in Lebanon's history has taken such radical steps before.

"The decisions that we made today might not fulfil your goals, but for certain it achieves what I have been seeking for two years," Mr Hariri told the protesters.

"These decisions are not in exchange for anything. I am not going to ask you to stop protesting and stop expressing your anger. This is a decision that you take," he said.

After his speech at the presidential palace, thousands of people gathered outside his office in downtown Beirut chanting: "The people want to bring down the regime," and "Revolution, revolution".

There is intense scepticism among the protesters that the reforms amounted to anything serious. They included many young men and women as well as whole families, with children waving the national red and white flag with a cedar tree in the centre.

Bolivia

Violence broke out in several Bolivian cities on Monday after the main opposition candidate rejected presidential election results that seemed set to give victory to long-time incumbent Evo Morales, as international monitors voiced "deep concern".

Rival supporters clashed in the capital La Paz, while in the southern city of Sucre an angry mob set a local electoral authority's headquarters on fire, TV images showed.

Protesters clashed with police in the mining city of Potosi and attacked the local electoral authority as well as local government offices.

Riot-police dispersed a crowd who tried to storm the electoral offices in the Andean city of Oruro, south of La Paz.

Clashes were also reported in Tarija in the south, Cochabamba in the centre and Cobija in the north.

Carlos Mesa, who came a close second to Mr Morales in Sunday's polls — forcing a run-off, according to preliminary results — denounced revised results released by election authorities as a "fraud".

"We are not going to recognise those results that are part of a shameful fraud, that is putting Bolivian society in a situation of unnecessary tension," said Mesa.

Mr Mesa, a former president between 2001 and 2005, accused Mr Morales of colluding with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to tweak delayed results and avoid a run-off.

Sudan

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across Sudan on Monday to call for the disbanding of former president Omar Al Bashir's party, the political apparatus he used to control the country during his 30 years of autocratic rule before being ousted in April.

Separately, Sudan's transitional government and a main rebel faction signed a political declaration amid peace negotiations that began last week, taking a new step towards ending the country's years-long civil wars. The two sides also renewed a nationwide ceasefire for three months.

The protests in Khartoum and other parts of the country coincided with the anniversary of an uprising in 1964. That push ended six years of military rule in Sudan after a wave of riots and strikes.

Sudan's current transitional government came to power after a similar campaign of mass unrest, which eventually led the military to overthrow Mr Al Bashir. The country is now ruled by a joint military-civilian administration, which must navigate a delicate path towards eventual democratic elections in just over three years.

There were no reports of any clashes with police or casualties during Monday's protests. The marches renewed demands for independent investigation into the deadly break-up of a protest camp by security forces in June.

Police blocked off main streets on Monday leading to the presidential palace and the military's headquarters in Khartoum — the site of June's deadly dispersal — said Asil Abdu, an activist.

The police warned the public against "creating a state of chaos," which it said could lead to "unfavourable consequences."

Videos circulated online showed protesters marching in the capital and other cities such as Atbara, a northern transport hub where the uprising began in December.

Chile

Protesters defied an emergency decree and confronted police in Chile's capital on Monday, continuing violent clashes, arson and looting that have left at least 12 dead and led the president to say the country is "at war".

Police used tear gas and streams of water to break up a march by hundreds of students and union members on one of Santiago's main streets, but demonstrators who at first dispersed later gathered again elsewhere.

Meanwhile, police and soldiers guarded Chileans who formed long lines outside supermarkets before they reopened after many stores closed during a weekend when dozens of stores were looted or burnt.

Only one of the city's six subway lines was operating because rioters had burnt or damaged many of the stations, and officials said it could take weeks or months to fully restore service.

About two million students were forced to stay home and many people were unable to reach their places of work.

Conservative President Sebastian Pinera said on Sunday night that the country is "at war with a powerful, relentless enemy that respects nothing or anyone and is willing to use violence and crime without any limits." But he did not identify a specific enemy.

After being criticised for his comments, he said on Monday that he would meet members of his administration and the opposition "to explore and hopefully advance towards a social agreement … to a better solution for the problems that affect Chileans".

The government is also working on a reconstruction plan that would cover the hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure damaged during the protests, Mr Pinera said.

His predecessor as president, Michelle Bachelet, issued a statement calling for dialogue and urging all sides to work "towards solutions that contribute to calming the situation".

Hong Kong

Hong Kong riot police fired tear gas late on Monday to disperse pro-democracy demonstrators gathered to mark three-months since an assault by more than 100 men on protesters, commuters and journalists.

The clashes in the Yuen Long neighbourhood came a day after widespread violence in which tens of thousands marched through Kowloon district and hardcore activists threw petrol bombs at police, torched metro entrances and trashed scores of shops.

Hong Kong has been battered by five months of huge and often violent protests over fears Beijing is tightening its grip on the territory, the worst political crisis since colonial ruler Britain handed it back to China in 1997.

Under a policy that deems marches illegal unless they have a police permit, riot police stopped about 100 protesters reaching the Yuen Long metro station in Hong Kong's northwest, which was closed five hours early amid tight security.

Police ordered protesters to disperse, at one stage rushing them and detaining one person. Scuffles broke out between pro-Beijing supporters and protesters and angry residents emerged from apartments to jeer officers, calling them "black police".

A police statement said police resorted to tear gas after some protesters hurled "hard objects" at them and vandalised banks in the vicinity. It urged residents to stay indoors, keep windows closed and avoid local streets.

After a few hours most protesters had scattered but police remained on the streets in force, occasionally firing tear gas at small groups and chasing down individuals.

Elsewhere in the city, protesters staged peaceful sit-ins at five metro stations.

Updated: October 24, 2019 07:17 AM

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