Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Hundreds of protesters were arrested and tear gassed this week in Lebanon as protests over the country's financial crisis turned violent.
Some 352 people were arrested in Beirut during what has been dubbed a "week of rage" at the country's political class and banks, which protesters blame for Lebanon's worst financial crisis in decades.
Protesters have been demonstrating since Oct. 17 but ratcheted up this week over delays in forming a new Cabinet to address the economic crisis.
This week they protested outside banks, calling for an end to the corruption they say has enriched a small, entrenched few at the expense of the rest of the country.
On Saturday, demonstrators chanted, "We won't pay the price," as they set out from various areas in Beirut toward its city center, but before they converged, some protesters threw rocks, signs and tree branches at security forces.
Security forces then used water cannons and tear gas to disperse demonstrators, who this week demonstrated outside banks in frustration at policies that have driven the crisis.
"Unless things change, life [in Lebanon] is not worth living. We are in an economic crisis and they [politicians] have proven that they are a real failure. We have nothing," a protester near Martyrs' Square in central Beirut told Al Jazeera.
In recent years Lebanon's central bank has increased interest rates to entice depositors, but to no effect.
At the same time, local banks began moving customers' money to the central bank to profit from the high interest rates, but the value of currency destabilized, causing the Lebanese pound to plummet.
Workers' salaries have dropped and the price of food and goods has escalated, with individuals worrying their savings will be wiped out.
Banks have also informally restricted the amount of money customers can withdraw, sparking public anger and regular confrontations between customers and bank staff.
"They can't fix it. They have lied about how much they have in savings and now it is showing," Nour Jadid, a 23-year-old who works in marketing during a Thursday-night protest outside Lebanon's central bank, told the Independent in Britain. "This is why we are having this crisis. We don't trust them anymore."
Lebanon is one of the most indebted countries in the world, with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 152 percent, and in the 2016 budget, interest payments accounted for almost half of government spending.
According to the World Bank, the poverty rate in Lebanon could rise from one-third to one-half if the crisis is not fixed.
The last government stepped down Oct. 29 amid pressure from protesters, but has remained in a caretaker capacity until a new Cabinet is formed.
That can be a convoluted process under Lebanon's system, where officials seek to maintain balance between the country's political parties and religious confessions.
Protesters want to scrap the old system and staff the government with impartial experts who can guide the country out of its current crisis.