Sri Lankan police tear gas protesters opposing the president

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Colombia, Sri Lanka –


Sri Lankan police used tear gas and water cannons on Saturday to disperse protesters who tried to approach the president’s office to demand his resignation due to the country’s current economic crisis.


Protesters gathered to mark the 50th day of protests during which they camped outside the office of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Police dispersed the gathering and briefly detained three people before releasing them.


Sri Lanka is on the verge of bankruptcy, having defaulted on its foreign loans, and is grappling with severe shortages of essentials like cooking gas, fuel and medicine. People have been forced to wait for hours in long queues trying to buy goods and many are still empty-handed.


The country’s foreign exchange reserves have also dwindled to only enough to buy two weeks of needed imports.


Authorities announced last month that they were suspending repayment of nearly $7 billion in foreign debt to be repaid this year. Sri Lanka must pay $25 billion until 2026. The Indian Ocean island nation’s total foreign debt is $51 billion.


Protesters say the main responsibility for the economic crisis lies with Rajapaksa and his family, whom they accuse of corruption and mismanagement.


Violence erupted across the country on May 9, when Rajapaksa supporters attacked peaceful protesters. Nine people, including a ruling party MP, were killed and the homes of serving ministers were burned down. He nearly dismantled the Rajapaksa dynasty after the president’s brother, then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned amid violence.


Three of the president’s siblings and a nephew had already resigned from their ministerial posts.


New Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would have an economic reform plan ready within two weeks to seek International Monetary Fund approval for a bailout.

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