Protesters in Lebanon have set fire to the central bank in Tripoli as a sign of their anger at the deepening economic crisis and the stagnation of political orthodoxy.
Joyce Karam of UAE-based media, TheNational, reported on 11 June that the Lebanese pound (LBP) is trading at more than 5,000 to $1 despite the country’s official rate of 1.507 to $1, representing a 20% devaluation since April, and more than 230% since the official rate will be set in January.
However, recent reports also indicate that a growing number of protesters are adopting Bitcoin (BTC) as a means of evading Lebanon’s failed monetary system.
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Banks burn as unrest grows
On 12 June, Reuters reported that Lebanon’s central bank will begin injecting funds into its foreign exchange market in a bid to halt the rapid devaluation that has intensified local tensions and unrest.
The report notes that some foreign exchange traders have already responded to the central bank’s action, lowering prices to approximately 4,500 pounds per dollar. Government officials have also pledged to take steps to reduce their value to approximately 3,000 pounds per dollar.
However, recent attempts by politicians to quell the deepening economic crisis within the country have been largely unsuccessful, with protesters exploding in multiple demonstrations, throwing stones at banks and even setting them on fire in recent months, while Lebanese officials accumulated record debts.
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Amid the turmoil, a growing number of Lebanese citizens are turning to Bitcoin and to crypto currencies in general, the Nikkei Asian Review reports that digital assets are „being adopted as an alternative to dollar assets“ among the country’s protesters.
However, confusion over the value of the Lebanese currency has led to erratic prices appearing on the local Bitcoin peer-to-peer market, Localbitcoins, with current bidding lists ranging from LBP 19 million to LBP 57 million per BTC, while on sales the bids range from LBP 12.5 million to LBP 40 million.
Bitcoin is gaining increasing popularity as an alternative value store in countries facing very violent hyperinflation, with Venezuela long being a leading market by volume in Localbitcoins.