1 September 2016

News summary

ARGENTINA - Union-led protests to be held countrywide
BRAZIL - (Update) Further countrywide pro- and anti-government protests likely
MEXICO - CNTE protests in urban centres countrywide
UNITED STATES - Elevated gun-related crimes in Chicago through August
UNITED STATES - Tropical Storm Hermine approaching south eastern states
NEW CALEDONIA - Tax reform strike leads to disruptions territory-wide
PHILIPPINES - Additional military deployments to Jolo
MACEDONIA - Planned protest by several organisations in Skopje
POLAND - Teachers' union to lead protest in Warsaw
LEBANON - Bomb blast in Zahle causes casualties
GABON - (Update) Election-related clashes in Libreville
NIGERIA - Militant attack on oil infrastructure reported in Niger Delta
TANZANIA - (Update) Opposition postpones countrywide demonstrations



ARGENTINA (Country risk rating: High); 31 August to 2 September; Union-led protests to be held countrywide

Various trade unions in Argentina, including the Argentine Workers' Central Union (CTA) and the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), have called for anti-government protests across the country from 31 August to 2 September. The protests are expected to take place in major cities, including Mendoza, Neuquen, San Salvador de Jujuy, Posadas, Formosa, Comodoro Rivadavia, Resistencia, Rosario and Corrientes. The protests will culminate at the capital, Buenos Aires, on 2 September, where a mass rally is anticipated at Plaza de Mayo at 17:00 local time. These protests are the latest to be held in Argentina over issues relating to President Mauricio Macri's economic policies. The protests, particularly those in the capital, are expected to be well attended and will likely result in disruptions in the vicinity of all protest sites. The events are expected to conclude without major incident; however, the possibility of low-level confrontations cannot be discounted.

Advice: Clients in Argentina from 31 August to 2 September should monitor local media for updates on the details of the protests and should avoid all large street gatherings as a standard precaution. Allowances should be made for potential localised disruptions.

BRAZIL (Country risk rating: High); 31 August and 1 September; (Update) Further countrywide pro- and anti-government protests likely

Further rival demonstrations are expected in Brazil in the coming days, following the senate's 31 August vote to impeach suspended President Dilma Rousseff. The senate is said to have voted 61 to 20 in favour of impeaching Rousseff. As a result of the vote, Rousseff is anticipated to be removed from office with immediate effect. Protests are likely to take place in Brazil's major urban centres, including in the capital, Brasilia, as well as in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Clashes were reported on Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo on 1 September, as riot police used teargas and water cannons to disperse protesters accused of vandalism. While details regarding further possible protests are currently unavailable, precedent suggests that the largest gatherings are likely in the vicinity of the National Congress building in the capital. The trial and associated impeachment proceedings have prompted numerous protests, both in support of and against Rousseff and her Workers' Party (PT), in urban centres across the country in recent months. Although related protests have not been marred by significant acts of violence, the potential for violence at upcoming agitations cannot be discounted. These events, should they take place, are expected to draw large crowds and security forces, and to result in localised travel disruptions.

Advice: Clients in Brazil should monitor local media for updates on political developments and should avoid all street protests as a general precaution. Additional details of possible protest gathering points are often announced on pro-government websites such as that of the PT, and on the Frente Brasil Popular Facebook page, or on social media platforms associated with the opposition, such as Vem Pra Rua Brasil and Movimento Brasil Livre.

MEXICO (Country risk rating: High); 1 September; CNTE protests in urban centres countrywide

Supporters of the National Coordination of Education Workers (CNTE) have called for protests across major urban centres in Mexico on 1 September. In the capital, Mexico City, participants are expected to gather in the vicinity of Palacio Legislativo de San Lazaro at 10:00 local time. Protests elsewhere are likely to centre on Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero and Michoacan states, which have been the focal points of related past protests. Protests by CNTE members against government education reforms have affected numerous states since mid-May and have been particularly disruptive. Negotiations between the CNTE and the government remain ongoing; however, it remains unclear whether a deal will be reached. It should be noted that previous protests have been marred by violence; as such, the risk of clashes at all related protests is assessed to be elevated. Furthermore, road travel disruptions in the affected areas are likely, as demonstrators often erect makeshift road blockades.

Advice: Clients in Mexico are advised to avoid all street protests as a standard precaution. Persons in the strike-affected states over the near-term should monitor local media for updates on related developments and protests, and should confirm the status of roads prior to travelling. Furthermore, it should be noted that heightened caution is advised across Mexico, due to the threats of crime and kidnapping, and the incidental risk of organised crime-related conflict.

UNITED STATES (Country risk rating: Medium); 1 to 31 August; Elevated gun-related crimes in Chicago through August

Gun-related crime has continued at elevated levels in the US city of Chicago, in August, with over 400 people shot and at least 78 people killed. The monthly murder numbers are the highest since the late 1990s. Through the course of 2016, approximately 481 murders were reported; over 2,800 people were shot. The gun violence has been concentrated in the south and west sides of the city. In these areas, Harrison District and Englewood have been particularly badly affected. The police have cited the presence of numerous gangs and easy accessibility to weapons as some of the causes of the high crime rate. The rising number of gun-related crime is a concern and is likely to persist through the remainder of the summer and hotter (June to September) months, a period when crime rates typically peak. The impact on travellers to the city is largely incidental. The risk increases in areas worst affected by crime, particularly lower income neighbourhoods, located along the city's periphery. Shootings have also increased in frequency during the weekend.

Advice: Clients in Chicago should exercise heightened levels of personal security awareness when travelling in lower income areas of the city, particularly during the evening. Local media should be monitored for further information and directives from the local authorities.

UNITED STATES (Country risk rating: Medium); 1 and 2 September; Tropical Storm Hermine approaching south eastern states

Tropical Storm Hermine is currently located in the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to increasingly impact the south eastern US states of Florida, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina over the next 24 to 48 hours. The US National Weather Service (NWS) has issued several heavy rain, flood and wind weather warnings for these areas. The storm system is expected to bring inclement weather, including heavy rainfall, strong winds and coastal storm surges, over the coming days in the affected areas. Localised flooding, particularly in low-lying areas, is possible. In addition, disruptions to road, rail and air travel as well as utility services cannot be discounted.

Advice: Clients in the affected areas are advised to monitor local media for updates and advisories from the authorities. Additional information and advisories can be accessed via the National Weather Service website. Persons intending on travelling in affected areas in the coming days should maintain contact with their travel provider for updates on the status of their travel arrangements.

Asia and Pacific

NEW CALEDONIA (Country risk rating: Low); 1 September; Tax reform strike leads to disruptions territory-wide

Disruptions to services were reported in New Caledonia, as congress debated tax reforms, on 1 September. Reports indicate that schools and various post offices were closed due to a strike, which was launched in efforts to pressure officials to adopt tax reforms in their entirety. In addition, local reports state that various unions staged a march to congress. Furthermore, unconfirmed reports suggest that flight services had also been disrupted by the agitation. Although the aforementioned agitation is anticipated to conclude peacefully, the possibility of low-level confrontations between protesters and security forces cannot be discounted. Additionally, related protests that took place three years ago culminated in a 12-day general strike; as such, the possibility of further strike action and associated protests are likely in the coming days. Should further protests take place, disruptions to services, including flight and road travel disruptions, are likely.

Advice: Clients in New Caledonia are advised to avoid all street protests as a standard precaution. Persons in the strike-affected areas in the coming days should monitor local media for updates on related developments and protests. Clients travelling in the affected area should confirm their travel arrangements with their service provider(s). Furthermore, itineraries should be kept flexible, in order to accommodate potential delays caused by the action.

PHILIPPINES (Country risk rating: Medium); 30 August; Additional military deployments to Jolo

Approximately 2,500 soldiers were deployed to the island of Jolo, and other nearby islands in Sulu province, in the Sulu Archipelago of the Philippines, on 30 August. The deployment will reinforce the approximately 2,000 soldiers already in place, and comes amid an ongoing military offensive against Abu Sayyaf militants, which began on 25 August. Since 29 August, at least 15 soldiers have been killed, mostly in forested areas in Patikul municipality; local authorities state they are uncertain as to how many militants were killed during the clashes, but established the figures to be around 30. The clashes form part of a campaign to eliminate the militants from the region, following a state order issued by President Rodrigo Duterte. The operations have since claimed heavy casualties on both sides. Abu Sayyaf is one of the known militant groups with links to regional and international terrorist cells that are active in the country, particularly in the southern provinces of Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, all of which are located in the Sulu Archipelago. Although it has recently declared allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), Abu Sayyaf is considered to be a largely criminal organisation, conducting kidnapping and extortion operations. Its current strength is estimated to be no more than 500 fighters. Skirmishes between the group and armed forces occur regularly. Increased counterterrorism operations are anticipated in the coming months.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to the southern Mindanao region and the Sulu Archipelago, including Sulu province. However, this advisory does not extend to the eastern Caraga and Davao regions of Mindanao, against which non-essential travel is advised. Persons currently in impacted areas should anticipate a heightened security force presence in the near-term, maintain a low profile and implement robust personal, residential and travel security protocols.

Europe and Russia

MACEDONIA (Country risk rating: Medium); 1 September; Planned protest by several organisations in Skopje

Several journalists' associations have called for a protest in Macedonia's capital, Skopje, on 1 September from 10:00 local time. The demonstration, expected outside of Basic Court Skopje 1, has been called to demand the release of jailed journalist Zoran Bozinovski, who has been in detention for several months on charges related to espionage and extortion. The Journalists Association alleges that the charges are politically motivated. The anticipated turnout is unclear; however, a police deployment is possible. The risk of low-level confrontations cannot be ruled out.

Advice: Persons in Skopje on 1 September are advised to avoid all street protests as a standard precaution.

POLAND (Country risk rating: Medium); 1 September; Teachers' union to lead protest in Warsaw

The Polish Teachers' Union (ZNP), the largest union for educators in Poland, has called on its members and supporters to stage a major demonstration in the capital, Warsaw, on 1 September. The union has been calling on the government to abandon plans to reform the education system, believing it would result in job losses and a skills shortage. The gathering is expected to take place outside the Ministry of Education office, located on Jana Chrystiana Szucha Avenue, from 16:00 local time; it is unclear when it will conclude. The demonstration is expected to be well attended and to be accompanied by a commensurate police presence. Violence is not expected, although it cannot be entirely ruled out. Localised travel disruptions are anticipated in the vicinity of the aforementioned areas.

Advice: Persons in Warsaw on 1 September are advised to avoid the demonstration as a standard precaution, and should ensure that itineraries are kept flexible, in order to accommodate potential delays caused by the action.

Middle East and North Africa

LEBANON (Country risk rating: High); 31 August; Bomb blast in Zahle causes casualties

A bomb explosion near Zahle, located in eastern Lebanon, killed one person and wounded several others on 31 August. The incident occurred near the Ksara traffic roundabout. Lebanon is periodically affected by both low-level and mass-casualty bombings. Incidents are typically linked to Islamist militants or domestic non-state armed groups linked to political factions.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to within 15km of the shared border with Syria in the Bekaa governorate and non-essential travel to the rest of the governorate, including Zahle. Persons in the area should avoid the Ksara roundabout. Persons operating in the Bekaa governorate are advised to do so with a security escort.

Sub-Saharan Africa

GABON (Country risk rating: High); 31 August and 1 September; (Update) Election-related clashes in Libreville

Election-related violence was reported in Libreville, the capital of Gabon, on 31 August and into the early hours of 1 September. Reports indicate that a number of people were killed in clashes between security forces and protesters. Military personnel have besieged the headquarters of opposition leader, Jean Ping, in the Charbonnages district of the capital. Electricity supply in parts of Libreville has reportedly been cut off, ostensibly to disrupt electronic communication between rioting protesters. Internet access has also reportedly been disrupted. Earlier, protesters set fire to the National Assembly building, located on Omar Bongo Triumphal Boulevard. Roadblocks have been reported throughout Libreville. Unrest has also been reported in the oil hub city of Port-Gentil, as well as in Oyem and Mouila. The unrest followed the National Electoral Commissions (CENAP) announcement on 31 August that the incumbent president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, had won the election, gaining 49.80 percent of the vote against his rival Ping's 48.23 percent. Riot police and military units attempted to disperse protesters on 31 August, and overnight on 1 September, using teargas, water cannons, and live ammunition. Further demonstrations are anticipated in the coming days. Protest hotspots in the capital include Cocotiers, Nkembo, Derriere la Prison, Sotega, Rio and Les Akebes, as well as Rond Point de la Democratie, Rond Point de Nkembo and Rond Point de Nzeng Ayong. The risk of violent clashes between police and protesters is considered elevated at opposition protests, as security forces may seek to disperse them immediately.

Advice: Clients in Gabon are advised to remain in a secure location until the situation stabilises. Clients are further advised to monitor political developments closely and to request regular updates from their security provider. Clients should ensure that crisis management plans, including evacuation plans, are updated.

NIGERIA (Country risk rating: High); 30 August; Militant attack on oil infrastructure reported in Niger Delta

The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate (NDGJM) militant group has claimed an attack on an Ogor-Oteri pipeline, located in the Ughelli North local government area of Nigeria's Delta State, which occurred on 30 August. The refinery is operated by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) and a Nigerian energy company, Shoreline. The militant group has threatened to carry out further attacks on pipelines in the region. Sabotage and attacks on oil and gas sector-related pipelines and facilities by militants in the Niger Delta region are regularly reported and have increased exponentially in 2016. The Nigerian government has continued to denounce the violence. Past ceasefire attempts have failed and the region remains volatile; given this, the government has deployed additional forces to the Niger Delta. The NDGJM militants have stated that they do not support the ongoing negotiations by other militants with the Nigerian government, and also do not recognise the newest ceasefire declared on 20 August, which is supported by a number of militants in the region, including the Niger Delta Avengers. As such, further attacks in the region targeting oil and gas facilities are anticipated. In addition, heightened security is expected to continue in the area. Violation of the ceasefire may spark protests in the Niger Delta from both supporters of the ceasefire and those sympathetic to the militants' goals.

Advice: Clients are advised against all travel to the states of Akwa Ibom State, Bayelsa, Cross River State, Delta State and Rivers State, and against all non-essential travel to the states of Edo, Imo State and Abia State. Persons operating in the Niger Delta, particularly those in the oil sector industry, should review all existing security measures with their on-site security teams or security providers. Crisis management plans should be updated and regularly reviewed. Travel outside of primary cities or secure compounds should be done with a close protection officer and during the day only. Foreign nationals should maintain a generally low public profile.

TANZANIA (Country risk rating: Medium); 1 September to 1 October; (Update) Opposition postpones countrywide demonstrations

Tanzania's primary opposition party, Chadema, has reportedly postponed its planned countrywide anti-government rallies, which were scheduled to be held from 1 September to 1 October. The decision followed an appeal by religious leaders that they enter into dialogue with the government, and coincide with a government clampdown on Chadema supporters. The authorities had previously issued a ban on the rallies; which had originally been called in opposition to President John Magufuli and his administration, which they liken to a dictatorial regime. Political tensions have increased markedly in recent weeks and there were concerns that the planned protests on 1 September would be affected by violent unrest. The decision to postpone the gatherings will de-escalate tensions somewhat; however, it is unclear if the talks will proceed. Note that it remains possible that elements of Chadema may still gather on 1 September and in the coming days.

Advice: Persons in Tanzania should monitor local media for updates on the demonstrations, as well as related advisories from the authorities. All protest gatherings and concentrations of security forces should be avoided as a standard precaution.