Following the resignation of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt on February 11th, mass demonstrations have begun in other countries throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Civilians of Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Morocco, and Bahrain are protesting against the authoritarian leadership of their country. While demonstrators have died in each of these countries, Libya has had an especially high death toll, with at least 1,000 deaths since the Libyan demonstration began last week.
Since February 15th, Libyan protesters have called for the resignation of their leader Muammar Gaddafi, who has led Libya for over forty years. Gaddafi became the leader of Libya after a coup in 1969 and is among the world’s longest serving dictators. Yesterday, Gaddafi announced he would not resign and that he would “die as a martyr.” Gaddafi also threatened those who protest with the death penalty.
Despite this threat, protesters throughout Libya continue to demonstrate. Protesters reportedly control small cities in Libya, but the government still controls the capital city Tripoli, as well as Benghazi. These are the two most populated cities in Libya that are also where a majority of deaths during the demonstration have occurred. The video below shows the brutal violence against Libyan protesters.
Even though Libya has a much smaller population than Egypt, the death toll in the Libyan demonstration has already more than doubled the death toll of the Egyptian demonstration. Libya has a population of only 6.3 million people, whereas Egypt has a population of 80 million. Also, the Libyan demonstration began only nine days ago, whereas the Egyptian demonstration lasted fourteen days. As a result, the death toll in Libya is particularly alarming not only because Libya is less than a tenth of Egypt’s size, but also because many more people have died in fewer days in Libya.
Today, President Obama appeared for his first speech regarding the Libyan demonstration to condemn the violence in Libya as “outrageous and unacceptable.” Obama also announced his administration is considering the “full range of options in its response to the demonstration.” Though, the options for the US response are much more narrow than the Egyptian demonstration because the US has little leverage in Libyan affairs.
Unlike Egypt, which received at least $1.5 billion from the US in each of the past 10 years, Libya does not receive much aid from the US. In fact, Libya received less than $1 million from the US in 2010. Since the US has minimal influence in Libya, sanctions against the North African country are among the only immediate options. Senator John Kerry, who is the Chairman of the Senate and Foreign Relations Committee, called on all US oil companies to cease its operations in Libya as of today.
Meanwhile, an economic implication of the Libyan demonstration will likely involve higher gas prices around the world. Libya produces almost 1.8 million barrels of oil each day and is the twelfth largest oil exporter in the world. Since Monday, the cost for a barrel of oil has risen almost 10% from about $90 to $100 per barrel – the highest price for a barrel of oil since 2008.