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Beirut (AFP) – Two suicides in Lebanon on Friday, apparently linked to the country’s deepening economic downturn, have sparked a new wave of criticism over the government’s mishandling of the crisis.

Medics carry the coffin of man who committed suicide onto an ambulance in the capital Beirut’s Hamra street on July 3, 2020. (AFP)

A 61-year-old man from the eastern region of Hermel shot himself on the sidewalk of a bustling Beirut shopping street in broad daylight, leaving a note and his clean criminal record at the scene.

The note referenced a popular revolutionary song that mentions hunger, suggesting his suicide was linked to the economic crisis that has been ravaging livelihoods across the country.

“He killed himself because of hunger,” the man’s cousin screamed as the security forces carried away the body.

“Curse the government!”

The Lebanese pound, officially pegged at 1,507 pounds to the greenback, reached more than 9,000 to the dollar this week on the black market in a dizzying devaluation.

A demonstrator carries a placard (R) which reads in Arabic “He did not commit suicide, he was killed in cold blood” as they gather to denounce the death of a man who committed suicide in Beirut on July 3, 2020. (AFP)

Prices have soared almost as fast as the exchange rate has plummeted, meaning that a salary of one million pounds is now worth a little more than $100, compared with almost $700 last year.

The suicide sparked small protests in the Hamra district, denouncing the government for its inaction over the country’s worst economic crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.

“He did not commit suicide, he was killed in cold blood,” read one sign, blaming the government.

Saba Mroue, a protestor, said: “the political class is responsible”.

File photo: Demonstrators chant slogans during a protest against corruption and deteriorating economic conditions, in front of the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon September 29, 2019. (Reuters)

A second suicide, by a van driver near the southern city of Sidon, was also apparently linked to the economic crisis, a local official said.

Dozens of protesters gathered at the suicide site and blocked the road holding up several signs, one of which read “He did not commit suicide, killed in cold blood.” 
A young man held a second banner saying, “He died because of poverty and hunger.”

The 37-year-old van driver hung himself in his home in the town of Jadra and his body was found on Friday morning, said municipality head Joseph al-Azzi.

The official said the suicide was linked to the economic crisis, saying the man was struggling financially.

A Lebanese internal security member walks past bloodstains at the site where a man committed suicide in Beirut, Lebanon. (Reuters)
An unidentified relative of the 37-year-old man who was found hanging Friday in a room in his house is shown lighting a candle as she mourns him

A spokesperson for Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces confirmed the two suicides, saying that suicide rates are up this year, although he could not provide figures.

Jad Chaaban, an economist and anti-government activist, described the suicides as a “murder by a ruling class that is prepared to kill us, starve us and impoverish us so that they can guard their interests.”

AFP

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