World

Sri Lankans rose up as inflation soared: A visual timeline of the crisis

In the past week, videos of Sri Lankan protesters taking over the president’s house, swimming in his pool and scaling the walls of the prime minister’s office have captured global attention. The country, mired in economic and political crises, has descended into chaos.

The president has left the country, and the prime minister declared a state of emergency.

Buddhika Weerasinghe/Bloomberg News

It’s a crisis that’s rooted in months of financial struggle and popular unrest.

Buddhika Weerasinghe/Bloomberg News

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Niha Masih/New Delhi

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Niha Masih/New Delhi

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Reuters

Since March, regular protests have taken place in the South Asian nation, whose 23 million people are contending with an economic crisis that has led to severe shortages in medicine, fuel and food. As the situation grew more desperate so did anger at the decades of political corruption.

Reuters

The country has been run by one family, the Rajapaksas, for most of the past 20 years. Following the unrest, which began earlier this year, the family’s power has collapsed.

Reuters

In one year, Sri Lanka’s inflation rate grew by more than 50 percent. It rose by around 15 percent just between May and June.

Reuters

Residents line up for liquefied petroleum gas in the country's capital of Colombo on April 12.

Jonathan Wijayaratne/Bloomberg News

Jonathan Wijayaratne/Bloomberg News

Sri Lankan auto rickshaw drivers endure long lines to buy gas in Colombo on April 13.

Eranga Jayawardena/AP

Eranga Jayawardena/AP

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Nadil Pahanmith via Storyful

Protests in late March against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government pushed him to declare a state of emergency, giving police more power to crack down on dissent.

In mid-April, security forces clashed with demonstrators, injuring 10 and killing one in Rambukkana, a town about 50 miles from the capital of Colombo.

Nadil Pahanmith via Storyful

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Associated Press

Five days later, students in Colombo descended on the president and prime minister’s offices, demanding their resignation as the country faced soaring inflation.

Associated Press

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Reuters

Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

Demonstrators in Colombo on April 28.

Bloomberg News

Bloomberg News

In May, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa — Gotabaya’s brother — announced his resignation as clashes between protesters and police continued.

Bloomberg News

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Nuzreth Jalaldeen via Storyful

The hardships faced by Sri Lankans have worsened since then. Last week the World Food Programme said more than 6 million residents don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Nuzreth Jalaldeen via Storyful

Sri Lankan troops guard a closed gas station amid a fuel shortage in Colombo on June 28.

Chamila Karunarathne/ EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Chamila Karunarathne/ EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Sri Lankan troops hand out fuel tokens to essential workers to buy petrol at a gas station in Colombo on June 28.

Chamila Karunarathne/ EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Chamila Karunarathne/ EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

A vegetable market with few stalls in Galle, a city on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, on June 28.

Buddhika Weerasinghe/ Bloomberg News

Buddhika Weerasinghe/ Bloomberg News

A vegetable vendor prepares carrots for sale at a market in Galle on June 28.

Buddhika Weerasinghe/ Bloomberg News

Buddhika Weerasinghe/ Bloomberg News

Months of desperation and struggle came to a head this week as Sri Lankans stormed the president’s house.

Buddhika Weerasinghe/ Bloomberg News

They splashed in his pool. They cooked in his kitchen. They lifted weights in his gym.

The palatial surroundings served as a stark backdrop to the disconnect between the people and their government.

Buddhika Weerasinghe/ Bloomberg News

Protesters outside the president's office on July 9 in Colombo.

Chamila Karunarathne/ EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Chamila Karunarathne/ EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Protesters inside the president's official residence in Colombo on July 9.

Chamila Karunarathne/ EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Chamila Karunarathne/ EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

A protester sleeps on a couch inside the president's residence in Colombo on July 10.

Chamila Karunarathne/ EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Chamila Karunarathne/ EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

People take a dip in a swimming pool at the president's residence in Colombo on July 10.

Chamila Karunarathne/ EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Chamila Karunarathne/ EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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Reuters

“We are desperate,” Himantha Wickremerathne, a 34-year-old lawyer who joined the protests told The Washington Post. “People from all walks of life have united with one intention — to demand that the corrupt president who clearly does not have a mandate step down.”

Less than a week later, Rajapaksa had left the country.

Reuters

For a brief moment, protesters appeared victorious.

But the country remains in a deep crisis, and it’s not clear who will fill the power vacuum, or how they will meet the needs of their people.

Reuters

Sri Lankan soldiers stand guard on an elevated position as protesters storm the prime minister's office on July 13.

Rafiq Maqbool/ AP

Rafiq Maqbool/ AP

Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images

Demonstrators take selfies inside the office building of Sri Lanka's prime minister on July 13.

Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images

Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images

Niha Masih and Hafeel Farisz contributed to this report.

Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images

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Credits

Editing by Olivier Laurent and Reem Akkad. Video editing by Jason Aldag.