Protesters Surround Sri Lankan President’s Home as Crisis Escalates

Protesters Surround Sri Lankan President’s Home as Crisis Escalates

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Thousands of protesters from across Sri Lanka descended on the capital, Colombo, on Saturday, some of them surrounding the president’s residence, as anger grew over his government’s inability to address a crippling economic crisis.

The protesters are demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who they accuse of running the island nation’s economy into the ground. Sri Lanka has run out of foreign exchange reserves for imports of essential items like fuel, food and medicine.

In some parts of the city, the police used tear gas and water cannons against protesters, or fired shots into the air to try to disperse them. Local news media showed footage of protesters breaching parts of the presidential residence, but it was not clear how far inside they had managed to get or whether Mr. Rajapaksa was there.

Protests have been going on for months, but the demonstration on Saturday appeared to be one of the biggest yet, even though the authorities had imposed an overnight curfew and halted trains in an attempt to stop people from reaching the capital. On Friday, the United Nations urged the “Sri Lankan authorities to show restraint in the policing of assemblies and ensure every necessary effort to prevent violence.”

Mr. Rajapaksa has defied intensifying calls for his departure, even as public pressure over the past five months has forced several members of his family, including his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was the prime minister, to resign. The Rajapaksa family has dominated politics in Sri Lanka for much of the past two decades.

Sri Lanka has repeatedly run out of fuel in recent months, with citizens lining up at gas stations, often in vain. Local news media have reported the deaths of at least 15 people in fuel lines, from heatstroke and other causes, since the beginning of the crisis.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Skandha Gunasekara reported from Colombo, and Mujib Mashal from New Delhi.

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