By Sandra Harris
A massive explosion rocked the port of Beirut, Lebanon on Tuesday after an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at a warehouse detonated, killing at least 137 people, wounding around 5,000, leaving 300,000 homeless, and causing damage to the city estimated between $10 to $15 billion.
The stockpile is believed to have detonated either due to a fire nearby, or because of welders attempting to repair a hole in the warehouse where the materials were stored. The ammonium nitrate was confiscated from a cargo ship that made an unscheduled stop due to technical problems in Beirut more than 6 years ago. Due to negligence from the Lebanese government, the highly explosive substance had been left in the warehouse.
Lebanese customs officials asked for guidance from the judiciary at least 6 times from 2014 to 2017 on how to dispose the material, but no response was ever received. The general manager of the port told the monopoly press, “We have been waiting for this to be resolved for six years, in vain.”
The explosion puts additional stress on a country already struggling amidst the economic and health crisis. A warehouse holding a large supply of Lebanon’s medications was also believed to have been leveled. The port included 60 percent of the nation’s imports, as well the main grain silo, which held about 85 percent of the nation’s cereals. Lebanon imports 80 percent of what it consumes, and already struggled with food scarcity before the explosion.
The people of Beirut immediately rebelled against the ruling class government’s corruption and negligence. On Thursday, many began protesting outside the parliament building demanding justice for those killed by the explosion, to which the government responded by deploying tear gas on demonstrators.
The negligence of public health and safety in semi-colonial countries like Lebanon is rooted in their subservience to imperialist powers. French President Emmanuel Macron visited with Lebanese leaders on Thursday and was immediately confronted by the people of Beirut.
In a video tweeted out by the British Broadcasting Corporation, one woman confronted the French president saying, “You are sitting with warlords, they have been manipulating us for the past year.” Macron responds to her, “I’m not here to help them, I’m here to help you.” Later in the video, they embrace. Macron later vowed that French aid would be given out with transparency.
The French ruling class is no friend to the Lebanese people. Depicting France, who colonized Lebanon in the early 20th century, as a sympathetic benefactor serves as justification for whatever intervention imperialist powers will force upon the country later on. This can be anticipated through an influx of non-governmental organizations under the guise of foreign aid. Canadian government officials already stated this week they would be giving foreign aid to “trusted humanitarian organizations” instead of directly to the Lebanese government.
“Aid” from the imperialist ruling class will not come without an agenda that seeks to further exploit already oppressed countries like Lebanon, that will work further against the demands of the people who are rightfully fighting their imperialist-controlled government.
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