Beirut crowds call for the ‘fall of the regime’ as Macron visits following explosion

Anger abounds in Lebanon following Tuesday’s massive blast in Beirut’s port that killed 154 people and injured 5,000 as it’s become increasingly clear that the catastrophe stemmed from governmental neglect and mismanagement of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse for years. The Lebanese people’s frustration with the country’s political class is not new, however. For months before the explosion, protesters took to the street to demonstrate against corruption in the government and a severe economic crisis in the country. Now, some are looking abroad for help.

One university student, Celine Dibo, told Reuters she wished “the United Nations would take over Lebanon,” while psychologist Maryse Hayek said “I hope another country would just take us over.” Indeed, more than 60,000 people have signed a petition asking France to restore the mandate it held between 1920 and 1946. But critics have pushed back against the idea.

French President Emmanuel Macron — who himself has dismissed the idea he could “substitute” for Lebanese leaders — has received praise for visiting the country during the aftermath, promising aid, and even bringing the heads of Lebanon’s divided political factions into the same room. But the French president has also been criticized for seeking a way to restore French influence over Lebanon and patronizing the politicians, The Associated Press reports, with one university student in Beirut wondering how Macron is “giving advice to us” when he “hasn’t resolved issues with his country.”

Jack Lang, a former French government official told AP that France’s position is difficult — ultimately, he said, France is “walking on the edge of precipice” when it comes to Lebanon, adding that “we have to aid, support, and encourage the Lebanese people, but at the same time not give the impression that we want to establish a new protectorate, which would be completely stupid.” Read more at Reuters and The Associated Press. Tim O’Donnell

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