08
Apr
12:39 UTC

MAX – Europe and the Americas Daily Summary – April 8, 2021

The following report reviews current events in the Europe and the Americas region and their possible effect on business continuity and security.

Highlights of the Day

Americas

  • Americas: Chile approves emergency use of CanSino, authorities tighten COVID-19 restrictions as of April 8; remain cognizant of updates
  • Colombia & Venezuela: 113 armed clashes recorded in border in 2021 per April 7 report; violence to persist amid increased FANB deployment
  • USA: Weather warnings issued for thunderstorms, tornadoes, fire in southern states on April 8-10; remain cognizant of local updates

Europe

  • Europe: Countries continue to extend restrictions as COVID-19 cases surge regionwide on April 8; remain cognizant of authorities’ updates
  • Greenland (DK): Opposition IA party wins snap elections in Greenland on April 7; likely to form coalition with Naleraq party
  • Russia & USA: Washington completes review of Moscow’s alleged meddling, cyberattacks on April 7; sanctions likely to be announced near-term

 

Americas Actionable items

Americas: Chile approves emergency use of CanSino, authorities tighten COVID-19 restrictions as of April 8; remain cognizant of updates

The government of Argentina has introduced strict measures due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. Under new restrictions, a curfew will be in effect in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (AMBA) and towns with most infections between 23:59-06:00 until April 30. The Canadian province of Ontario has issued a stay-at-home order and ordered the closure of nonessential stores. Chile’s health regulator has approved the emergency use of the CanSino COVID-19 vaccine. The first batch is due to arrive in May. In Colombia, the city of Bogota will be placed under quarantine starting April 10. Haiti refused a donation of 756,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from the World Health Organization (WHO) via the Covax mechanism on April 6. Authorities in Suriname have extended curfew hours and tightened restriction through April 21. In Uruguay, face-to-face classes will be suspended in all private and public institutions until May 3. In the USA, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has banned the state governments and private entities from requiring COVID-19 Vaccine Passports to access services.

Those operating or residing in the Americas on April 8 and the coming days are advised to remain cognizant of authorities’ instructions regarding quarantines and health procedures.

 

Brazil: Unions call for nationwide anti-government protests, including in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro on April 9; maintain vigilance

The Central Unica dos Trabalhadores (CUT) and Frente Brasil Popular unions have called for protests to be held nationwide, including in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, on April 9 to demand an effective distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as to call for President Jair Bolsonaro’s resignation. Sao Paulo’s planned protest is at the Butantan Institute and Rio de Janeiro’s is at the Fundacao Osvaldo Cruz, with neither having a confirmed time as of writing.

Based on precedent and the known mobilization capabilities of the unions involved, the turnout for the protest is liable to be in high-dozens to mid-hundreds each.  Given prevailing heightened anti-government sentiments, the protests carry with them a latent potential for unrest in the form of localized clashes between security personnel and protesters. As such a bolstered security presence is likely to be deployed to monitor proceedings. Disruptions to vehicular and pedestrian traffic may be anticipated in the vicinity of the aforementioned locations during the duration of the protests. Disruptions to pedestrian and vehicular traffic can be expected in the vicinity of protest locations  

Those operating or residing in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on April 9 are advised to maintain vigilance in the vicinity of the aforementioned locations due to the planned protests.

 

Colombia: Trade unions call for national strike, protest against tax reform on April 9 in Bogota from 09:00 (local time); maintain vigilance

Several trade unions including the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia (CUT) and Confederacion General del Trabajo (CGT) have called for a national strike and associated protests on April 9 at the Centro de Memoria Historica at 09:00 (local time) in Bogota to protest the government’s tax reforms.

Based on the organizers’ mobilizational capacity, the slated protest is likely to attract a turnout ranging in the mid-to-high hundreds. Based on previous protests held by the unions, the protest action carries with it a potential to turn violent, with protesters likely to clash with the security personnel. As such, a bolstered security presence is likely to be deployed in the vicinity of the protest, near government buildings, and major squares in the city to monitor proceedings. Significant disruptions to vehicular and pedestrian traffic can be anticipated, with potential road blockades likely during the morning hours.

 Those operating or residing in Bogota on April 9 are advised to maintain vigilance in the vicinity of the protest location and allot for travel-related disruptions due to the planned protest and strike action.

 

USA: Weather warnings issued for thunderstorms, tornadoes, fire in southern states on April 8-10; remain cognizant of local updates

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a Marginal Risk of severe weather (the first level on a five-tier scale) for April 8 for areas from New Orleans to Poplarville where damaging wind gusts of up to 95 km/h are expected. On April 9, an Enhanced Risk of severe weather (the third highest) will be in effect for the Southern Plains into the Lower Mississippi Valley for tornado, wind, and hail threats. Severe weather and flash flooding are expected on April 10. Authorities warn floodwaters and debris flows could render bridges, rail networks, or roadways impassable, impacting overland travel around affected areas. In addition, the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has outlined an “Elevated Risk” of fire danger in and around New Mexico on April 8, with a “Critical Risk” in place for western Texas on April 9. Red Flag warnings are in effect for portions of the Four Corners states and the Central High Plains as well. Given the heightened risk of wildfires, power shutdowns cannot be ruled out in the affected areas.

Those operating or residing in the aforementioned regions of the USA on April 8-10 are advised to remain cognizant of local updates regarding weather-related risks.

 

Americas Notable events

Colombia & Venezuela: 113 armed clashes recorded in border in 2021 per April 7 report; violence to persist amid increased FANB deployment

According to the Fundaredes NGO, 113 armed clashes and 77 disappearances have been recorded in the Venezuelan border states of Falcon, Zulia, Tachira, Apure, Bolivar, and Amazonas in 2021. The agency also claimed that violence in the region has increased with security operations carried out by Venezuela. As of writing, at least eight soldiers and nine members of armed groups have been killed in Apure in operations by Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana (FANB) since May 21. 

While the border regions have been hotspots for organized criminal activity over the years, as indicated in the report, the recent uptick in clashes is likely the result of Venezuela having increased operations in the region. With Venezuela’s Ministry of Defense having created a special military unit in the region as of April 5, further violent clashes are likely to be recorded over the coming months, with civilians being at a heightened risk of getting caught in the crossfire. The FANB’s increased deployment in the region amid rising fatalities is likely to prompt intense criticism from Colombia, as well as other international entities. 

 

Colombia & Venezuela: Leader of FARC’s Tenth Front calls for ceasefire with Venezuela on April 7; violence unlikely to subside in near-team

On April 7, a leader of the Tenth Front, a dissident faction of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), called on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to engage in dialogue to achieve a ceasefire in the border region between Apure, Venezuela, and Arauca, Colombia. This development comes amid increasing tensions and armed confrontations between Venezuelan armed forces and certain Colombian illegal armed groups in recent weeks. 

Given that the Tenth Front is engaged in a turf war for the control of drug trafficking in the border region with another FARC dissident faction, which is allegedly being supported by Maduro, the call for a ceasefire is likely an attempt by the Front to consolidate its influence in the area. With this, the recent escalation of violence between the Tenth Front and the Venezuelan army suggests armed confrontations are unlikely to subside in the near term. This is supported by Venezuela deploying additional troops to Apure on April 7, further strengthening accusations that Maduro is protecting armed groups such as FARC dissidents in Venezuela. 

 

Mexico: Authorities confirm presence of armed civilian groups in Aguililla, Michoacan, per April 7; security situation to deteriorate

Authorities have confirmed the presence of armed civilian groups across Aguililla, Michoacan, as per April 7 reports. The ‘self-defense’ groups are reportedly carrying out attacks in response to threats by Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) and other organized criminal groups operating in the state. However, conflicting reports indicate that these groups are affiliated with rival gangs to CJNG, including Carteles Unidos (CU). A heightened security presence has been deployed in the region since March due to the upcoming legislative elections scheduled for June.

The above highlights elevated threat levels posed to Michoacan’s residents due to the presence of armed groups and cartels. Further, the state authority’s failure to prevent the expansion of criminal groups has likely reduced the local residents’ confidence in security personnel and will lead to armed confrontations with security forces in their attempt to bolster their regional presence. With this, the security situation in Aguililla is likely to deteriorate in the medium term given the active presence of multiple armed groups and cartels fighting to consolidate regional control. 

 

Venezuela: Opposition leaders denounce extrajudicial executions in 2020, per April 7 reports; shows crackdown by government on dissent

According to April 7 reports, the Venezuelan opposition denounced extrajudicial executions in 2020-2021. A total of 525 executions were recorded nationwide between September 2020 and March 2021, according to a prominent international human rights organization. Over 71 percent of the cases recorded occurred in economically backward areas and were carried out by the Fuerza de Acciones Especiales-Policia Nacional Bolivariana (FAES-PNB), the special forces unit in the national police. Further, Venezuela recorded a homicide rate of 45.6 per 100,000 in 2020.

The report reiterates the incumbent Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV)-led government’s efforts to crackdown against perceived dissent nationwide. Further, the report may be used by the Juan Guaido-led opposition to call for anti-government demonstrations in Caracas and other cities in the near term. These protests are expected to be violent but are not expected to significantly alter the country’s status quo. As such, the OAS and other international allies of Guaido are likely to continue denouncing the government’s policies while issuing new economic sanctions. Regardless, a continued crackdown on dissent is expected in the medium term. 

 

Europe Actionable items

Albania: Air traffic controllers strike at TIA in Tirana ongoing since evening hours (local time) of April 6; remain cognizant of updates

Air traffic controllers at Tirana International Airport Mother Teresa (TIA) have been on strike since the evening hours (local time) of April 6, resulting in the suspension of all flights to and from the airport until April 8. The strike is scheduled to end at 10:00 (local time) on April 8 but reports indicate that the workers on strike will remain so for an indefinite period until their demands are met. The government sent military and police troops on the evening of April 7 to clear the striking workers from the air traffic control tower and Prime Minister Edi Rama has threatened to take legal action against the workers. Rama has accused President Ilir Meta of an attempted coup over his support of the strike. Although flights are set to resume from 10:00 on April 8, delays and cancellations are expected as not all striking workers may return to the control tower after the labor action officially ends. As of writing, no updates to flights scheduled in the afternoon hours of April 8 have been given.

Those intending to travel to or from TIA in Tirana on April 8 and the coming days are advised to remain cognizant of airport authorities’ updates pertaining to flight delays or cancellations. 

 

Austria: Multiple protests to be held in Vienna on April 9-10; maintain heightened vigilance

Reports indicate that multiple demonstrations are slated to take place in Vienna on April 9 and 10. On April 9, multiple groups will stage a protest against various policies implemented by the government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Demonstrators will gather at 16:00 (local time) at Stadtpark before marching towards the ruling Osterreichische Volkspartei (OVP) party’s headquarters. On April 10, far-right activists will stage a protest against COVID-19 restrictions at Votivpark at 12:00. In response, Antifa activists will stage a bicycle counter-protest at the same location and timing.

Based on precedent, the demonstrations are likely to witness an attendance ranging in the mid-to-high hundreds. Given heightened anti-government sentiment due to the ongoing restrictions, the protests carry a heightened potential for unrest in the form of clashes between protesters and security forces. Authorities are likely to use forcible dispersal methods in the event of widespread unrest. As such, a bolstered security presence is likely to be deployed in order to monitor proceedings. Significant traffic disruptions may be experienced during the slated timings.

Those operating or residing in Vienna on April 9-10 are advised to maintain heightened vigilance in the vicinity of the aforementioned locations due to the potential for unrest at the slated protests.

 

Europe: Countries continue to extend restrictions as COVID-19 cases surge regionwide on April 8; remain cognizant of authorities’ updates

In Austria, students in the final year of high school in the eastern states of Burgenland, Lower Austria, and Vienna will be allowed to go back to school from April 12. In Belgium, authorities have temporarily suspended the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for people under 55 years old over safety concerns, per April 7 reports. In Croatia, authorities have announced the extension of existing nationwide entry restrictions until at least April 15.  The European Union’s drug regulatory authority European Medicines Agency (EMA) has stated that it has found a possible link between the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and very rare cases of blood clots, per April 7 reports. In Germany, authorities in Bavaria announced that students and teachers will have to undergo COVID-19 tests two times a week and require negative test results to take part in in-person lessons, per April 7 reports. In Poland, authorities have extended the temporarily enhanced COVID-19 regulations through April 18. In Romania, authorities announced that those who had received their first COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca will receive their second of a different vaccine.

Those operating or residing in Europe on April 8 and the coming days are advised to remain cognizant of authorities’ instructions regarding quarantines, travel restrictions, and health procedures. 

 

Germany: Left-wing groups to hold protests against gentrification at Dorfplatz in Berlin on April 9-10; maintain vigilance

Reports indicate that activists associated with several left-wing groups will stage a demonstration to denounce the eviction of the “Liebigstrasse 34” apartment in Berlin on April 9-10. On April 9, the protesters will hold a rally at 16:00 (local time) at Dorfplatz. On April 10, a similar demonstration will be held, with protesters gathering at 12:00 at Dorfplatz. The apartment was evacuated by the police in October 2020.

Based on precedent, the demonstrations are expected to witness turnouts in the range of high-dozens to low-hundreds. Given the elevated sentiment over the issue and the participation of left-wing groups in the demonstrations, the protest carries a latent potential for unrest. Localized scuffles between the protesters and police officers cannot be ruled out. As such, a bolstered security presence is expected to be deployed in the vicinity of the protest to monitor proceedings and ensure compliance with current COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings. Significant disruptions to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic can be expected from the afternoon hours onwards.

Those operating or residing in Berlin on April 9-10 are advised to maintain vigilance in the vicinity of the above-slated demonstrations and allot for travel disruptions from the afternoon hours onwards.

 

Greece: Parents to protest changes to preschool education at Kotzia Square in Athens at 18:00 (local time) on April 8; maintain vigilance

A protest is slated to take place at 18:00 (local time) at Kotzia Square in Athens on April 8. The demonstration is organized by parents against proposed changes to preschool education services in the city. Given precedent and the protest issue, turnout is liable to be in the low hundreds. Considering current limits on gatherings due to COVID-19, a bolstered security presence can be expected in Kotzia Square’s vicinity to monitor proceedings and ensure social distancing. While the demonstration has been organized as a peaceful event, given limits on gatherings coupled with heightened unrest witnessed at recent protests in Athens, the demonstration carries a latent potential for unrest in the event that police decide to break up the rally. As such, localized clashes between police and protesters cannot be ruled out. In the case of widespread unrest, police are liable to use forcible dispersal methods, including water cannons and conducting arrests. Disruptions to vehicular and pedestrian traffic can be anticipated in the vicinity of Kotzia Square from the evening hours onwards.

Those operating or residing in Athens on April 8 are advised to maintain vigilance and allot for disruptions to travel in the vicinity of Kotzia Square from the evening hours onwards due to the planned protest.

 

UK: Violent clashes recorded in Belfast on April 7-8, further protests planned; avoid non-essential travel in vicinity of protests

Petrol bombs were thrown at police and property and a bus was set on fire on April 7-8 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Clashes occurred between unionists, republicans, and the police on what is known as the “peace line” dividing unionist and republican communities in west Belfast. Additionally, the violence marked the sixth consecutive day of such unrest throughout Northern Ireland. 

Tensions are liable to continue throughout Northern Ireland in the near-term as a political resolution to the differences is unlikely in the short-term. Despite major political leaders calling for a de-escalation, it is unlikely the leaders of the more extreme groups on both sides will listen to their calls, given a sense of disconnection between them and more mainstream parties. The violence is likely to continue and is liable to further escalate in the near-term, most prominently in Belfast, with protests planned on Donegal Road, Belfast, and in Portadown at 06:00 and 19:00 (local time) on April 9. Other spontaneous acts of violence can be anticipated, especially in Belfast, on April 9 and in the coming days. 

Those operating or residing in Northern Ireland on April 9 and the coming days are advised to avoid non-essential travel in the vicinity of protests given the uptick in violent clashes.

 

Europe Notable Events

Czech Republic: Third health minister expelled since beginning of pandemic on April 7; highlights disorganized public health response

Prime Minister Andrej Babis expelled Health Minister Jan Blatny on April 7 and replaced him with Petr Arenberger, the former director of Prague’s University Hospital Vinohrady. Blatny held the health ministry portfolio since October 2020 and was criticized by both Babis and President Milos Zeman due to his refusal to support the purchase of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine. Arenberger will be the fourth health minister in the country since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.

The fourth change in leadership at the health ministry highlights the government’s disorganized response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a slow vaccination rollout, as the Czech Republic remains one of the hardest hit countries in Europe. Further, Arenberger is liable to align with Babis and Zeman in favoring the procurement of Sputnik V vaccines, enabling the Czech Republic to increase vaccination rates in the near-to-medium term. Additionally, with parliamentary elections scheduled for October 8 and Babis’ ANO 2011 party struggling in the polls, Babis is liable to authorize Arenberger to take any steps needed to get the pandemic under control in the near-term.

 

Greenland (DK): Opposition IA party wins snap elections in Greenland on April 7; likely to form coalition with Naleraq party

The opposition left-wing Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party won Greenland’s snap parliamentary elections on April 7, gaining 36.6 percent of the vote and 12 seats in parliament. The election follows disagreements over the Kvanefjeld uranium mining complex, which led to the collapse of the ruling coalition in February. The IA party, as well as the Naleraq independence party, has strongly opposed the project. The pro-mining ruling social democratic Siumut party came second with 29.4 percent votes. 

Given that the IA party requires at least 16 of 31 seats to form a majority, it will likely seek a coalition with the Naleraq party, which won four seats, as both parties oppose the project. That the IA party stated it would not move forward with the project for environmental reasons, the potential ruling coalition is likely to face challenges from opposition parties over the possible loss of jobs and revenue, given that mining could allow Greenland greater autonomy from Denmark. Moreover, the decision to halt the project is likely to adversely affect Greenland’s economic interests, including its mining-friendly jurisdiction. 

 

North Macedonia: Nine interior ministry officials detained for fake passport issuing network on April 6; further arrests likely near-term

Nine officials of the Interior Ministry were reportedly detained on April 6 on suspicion of illegally issuing fake passports to foreign criminals. The detainees were arrested in a surveillance operation conducted by local authorities in coordination with the US embassy in Skopje and INTERPOL since 2019. 215 people had allegedly received the passports, including drug cartel suspects and high-profile criminals wanted under international warrants. Another suspect is also wanted for questioning. The arrests followed one day after the opposition VMRO DPMNE party accused the government of being behind a “criminal ring” that issued hundreds of fake passports to criminal suspects. 

The incident substantiates concerns over North Macedonia functioning as a service and logistical hub for international organized criminal groups, with government officials aiding their operations. Further, that the large-scale police operation followed a day after the VMRO DPMNE party’s allegations, indicates that the opposition party’s accusations likely prompted the announcement of the arrests by the government. Regardless, further such arrests as part of the surveillance operation are likely to be announced moving forward. 

 

Russia & USA: Washington completes review of Moscow’s alleged meddling, cyberattacks on April 7; sanctions likely to be announced near-term

The US administration has completed an intelligence review of Russia’s alleged election interference and cyberattacks and may soon announce retaliatory actions, according to an April 7 report by three undisclosed sources familiar with the matter. Reports indicate that possible moves could also involve the expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in the USA. Russian officials have stated they have no plans to restore full diplomatic representation in Washington “until it sees evidence that the USA is interested in building constructive relations between the two countries”.

These political developments reflect mounting tensions between Moscow and Washington, supported by Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushed stating that the relations between Moscow and Washington are currently at the lowest point since the end of the Cold War. With Washington already imposing sanctions on several Russian officials in response to the imprisonment of opposition Activist Alexei Navalny in March, further sanctions against Moscow over the aforementioned issues are likely in the coming days. In response, Moscow is liable to continue engaging in cyberattacks and escalating its disinformation campaign targeting the USA moving forward. 

 

Spain: Left-wing activists, police clash at far-right VOX rally in Vallecas, Madrid on April 7; reflects potential for unrest at such events

Two people were arrested and 14 injured on April 7 after left-wing activists clashed with police during a rally held by the far-right VOX party in Vallecas, Madrid. Activists and local residents threw stones and bottles at police and at VOX leader Santiago Abascal. The event was part of VOX’s campaign ahead of the snap regional elections in Madrid scheduled for May 4. During the previous election in 2019, only five percent of Vallecas residents voted for VOX, while left-wing parties obtained 77 percent of the votes. 

These developments reflect the heightened potential for unrest at VOX rallies held in areas where VOX does not enjoy broad support, as evidenced by similar clashes reported at rallies in the Basque Country in June 2020 and in Catalonia in February 2021. Given that Vallecas is a left-wing stronghold, opposition parties are liable to accuse VOX of purposefully staging the rally to provoke local residents and activists. Given heightened sentiments against VOX in multiple neighborhoods across Madrid, instances of unrest are likely at upcoming VOX rallies leading up to the vote. 

 

Notable Dates

April 9

  • Kosovo: Kosovo Constitution Day

 

April 10

  • France: Protest in Paris
  • Germany: Rally in Berlin
  • UK: Protest in Bristol

 

April 11

  • Chile: Public Holiday
  • Costa Rica: Juan Santamaria Day
  • Peru, Ecuador: General Elections

 

April 11

  • Germany: Protest in Berlin

 

April 13

  • France: Inter-union strike in Paris

 

April 14

  • Cayman Islands: Public Holiday – General Elections

 

April 19

  • Honduras: Americas’ Day Holiday
  • Venezuela: Independence Declaration Day

 

April 21

  • Brazil: Tiradentes Day 
  • Falkland Islands: Queen’s Birthday

 

April 22

  • Iceland: Sumardagurinn fyrsti

 

The following report reviews current events in the Europe and the Americas region and their possible effect on business continuity and security.

Highlights of the Day

Americas

  • Americas: Chile approves emergency use of CanSino, authorities tighten COVID-19 restrictions as of April 8; remain cognizant of updates
  • Colombia & Venezuela: 113 armed clashes recorded in border in 2021 per April 7 report; violence to persist amid increased FANB deployment
  • USA: Weather warnings issued for thunderstorms, tornadoes, fire in southern states on April 8-10; remain cognizant of local updates

Europe

  • Europe: Countries continue to extend restrictions as COVID-19 cases surge regionwide on April 8; remain cognizant of authorities’ updates
  • Greenland (DK): Opposition IA party wins snap elections in Greenland on April 7; likely to form coalition with Naleraq party
  • Russia & USA: Washington completes review of Moscow’s alleged meddling, cyberattacks on April 7; sanctions likely to be announced near-term

 

Americas Actionable items

Americas: Chile approves emergency use of CanSino, authorities tighten COVID-19 restrictions as of April 8; remain cognizant of updates

The government of Argentina has introduced strict measures due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. Under new restrictions, a curfew will be in effect in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (AMBA) and towns with most infections between 23:59-06:00 until April 30. The Canadian province of Ontario has issued a stay-at-home order and ordered the closure of nonessential stores. Chile’s health regulator has approved the emergency use of the CanSino COVID-19 vaccine. The first batch is due to arrive in May. In Colombia, the city of Bogota will be placed under quarantine starting April 10. Haiti refused a donation of 756,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from the World Health Organization (WHO) via the Covax mechanism on April 6. Authorities in Suriname have extended curfew hours and tightened restriction through April 21. In Uruguay, face-to-face classes will be suspended in all private and public institutions until May 3. In the USA, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has banned the state governments and private entities from requiring COVID-19 Vaccine Passports to access services.

Those operating or residing in the Americas on April 8 and the coming days are advised to remain cognizant of authorities’ instructions regarding quarantines and health procedures.

 

Brazil: Unions call for nationwide anti-government protests, including in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro on April 9; maintain vigilance

The Central Unica dos Trabalhadores (CUT) and Frente Brasil Popular unions have called for protests to be held nationwide, including in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, on April 9 to demand an effective distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as to call for President Jair Bolsonaro’s resignation. Sao Paulo’s planned protest is at the Butantan Institute and Rio de Janeiro’s is at the Fundacao Osvaldo Cruz, with neither having a confirmed time as of writing.

Based on precedent and the known mobilization capabilities of the unions involved, the turnout for the protest is liable to be in high-dozens to mid-hundreds each.  Given prevailing heightened anti-government sentiments, the protests carry with them a latent potential for unrest in the form of localized clashes between security personnel and protesters. As such a bolstered security presence is likely to be deployed to monitor proceedings. Disruptions to vehicular and pedestrian traffic may be anticipated in the vicinity of the aforementioned locations during the duration of the protests. Disruptions to pedestrian and vehicular traffic can be expected in the vicinity of protest locations  

Those operating or residing in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on April 9 are advised to maintain vigilance in the vicinity of the aforementioned locations due to the planned protests.

 

Colombia: Trade unions call for national strike, protest against tax reform on April 9 in Bogota from 09:00 (local time); maintain vigilance

Several trade unions including the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia (CUT) and Confederacion General del Trabajo (CGT) have called for a national strike and associated protests on April 9 at the Centro de Memoria Historica at 09:00 (local time) in Bogota to protest the government’s tax reforms.

Based on the organizers’ mobilizational capacity, the slated protest is likely to attract a turnout ranging in the mid-to-high hundreds. Based on previous protests held by the unions, the protest action carries with it a potential to turn violent, with protesters likely to clash with the security personnel. As such, a bolstered security presence is likely to be deployed in the vicinity of the protest, near government buildings, and major squares in the city to monitor proceedings. Significant disruptions to vehicular and pedestrian traffic can be anticipated, with potential road blockades likely during the morning hours.

 Those operating or residing in Bogota on April 9 are advised to maintain vigilance in the vicinity of the protest location and allot for travel-related disruptions due to the planned protest and strike action.

 

USA: Weather warnings issued for thunderstorms, tornadoes, fire in southern states on April 8-10; remain cognizant of local updates

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a Marginal Risk of severe weather (the first level on a five-tier scale) for April 8 for areas from New Orleans to Poplarville where damaging wind gusts of up to 95 km/h are expected. On April 9, an Enhanced Risk of severe weather (the third highest) will be in effect for the Southern Plains into the Lower Mississippi Valley for tornado, wind, and hail threats. Severe weather and flash flooding are expected on April 10. Authorities warn floodwaters and debris flows could render bridges, rail networks, or roadways impassable, impacting overland travel around affected areas. In addition, the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has outlined an “Elevated Risk” of fire danger in and around New Mexico on April 8, with a “Critical Risk” in place for western Texas on April 9. Red Flag warnings are in effect for portions of the Four Corners states and the Central High Plains as well. Given the heightened risk of wildfires, power shutdowns cannot be ruled out in the affected areas.

Those operating or residing in the aforementioned regions of the USA on April 8-10 are advised to remain cognizant of local updates regarding weather-related risks.

 

Americas Notable events

Colombia & Venezuela: 113 armed clashes recorded in border in 2021 per April 7 report; violence to persist amid increased FANB deployment

According to the Fundaredes NGO, 113 armed clashes and 77 disappearances have been recorded in the Venezuelan border states of Falcon, Zulia, Tachira, Apure, Bolivar, and Amazonas in 2021. The agency also claimed that violence in the region has increased with security operations carried out by Venezuela. As of writing, at least eight soldiers and nine members of armed groups have been killed in Apure in operations by Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana (FANB) since May 21. 

While the border regions have been hotspots for organized criminal activity over the years, as indicated in the report, the recent uptick in clashes is likely the result of Venezuela having increased operations in the region. With Venezuela’s Ministry of Defense having created a special military unit in the region as of April 5, further violent clashes are likely to be recorded over the coming months, with civilians being at a heightened risk of getting caught in the crossfire. The FANB’s increased deployment in the region amid rising fatalities is likely to prompt intense criticism from Colombia, as well as other international entities. 

 

Colombia & Venezuela: Leader of FARC’s Tenth Front calls for ceasefire with Venezuela on April 7; violence unlikely to subside in near-team

On April 7, a leader of the Tenth Front, a dissident faction of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), called on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to engage in dialogue to achieve a ceasefire in the border region between Apure, Venezuela, and Arauca, Colombia. This development comes amid increasing tensions and armed confrontations between Venezuelan armed forces and certain Colombian illegal armed groups in recent weeks. 

Given that the Tenth Front is engaged in a turf war for the control of drug trafficking in the border region with another FARC dissident faction, which is allegedly being supported by Maduro, the call for a ceasefire is likely an attempt by the Front to consolidate its influence in the area. With this, the recent escalation of violence between the Tenth Front and the Venezuelan army suggests armed confrontations are unlikely to subside in the near term. This is supported by Venezuela deploying additional troops to Apure on April 7, further strengthening accusations that Maduro is protecting armed groups such as FARC dissidents in Venezuela. 

 

Mexico: Authorities confirm presence of armed civilian groups in Aguililla, Michoacan, per April 7; security situation to deteriorate

Authorities have confirmed the presence of armed civilian groups across Aguililla, Michoacan, as per April 7 reports. The ‘self-defense’ groups are reportedly carrying out attacks in response to threats by Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) and other organized criminal groups operating in the state. However, conflicting reports indicate that these groups are affiliated with rival gangs to CJNG, including Carteles Unidos (CU). A heightened security presence has been deployed in the region since March due to the upcoming legislative elections scheduled for June.

The above highlights elevated threat levels posed to Michoacan’s residents due to the presence of armed groups and cartels. Further, the state authority’s failure to prevent the expansion of criminal groups has likely reduced the local residents’ confidence in security personnel and will lead to armed confrontations with security forces in their attempt to bolster their regional presence. With this, the security situation in Aguililla is likely to deteriorate in the medium term given the active presence of multiple armed groups and cartels fighting to consolidate regional control. 

 

Venezuela: Opposition leaders denounce extrajudicial executions in 2020, per April 7 reports; shows crackdown by government on dissent

According to April 7 reports, the Venezuelan opposition denounced extrajudicial executions in 2020-2021. A total of 525 executions were recorded nationwide between September 2020 and March 2021, according to a prominent international human rights organization. Over 71 percent of the cases recorded occurred in economically backward areas and were carried out by the Fuerza de Acciones Especiales-Policia Nacional Bolivariana (FAES-PNB), the special forces unit in the national police. Further, Venezuela recorded a homicide rate of 45.6 per 100,000 in 2020.

The report reiterates the incumbent Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV)-led government’s efforts to crackdown against perceived dissent nationwide. Further, the report may be used by the Juan Guaido-led opposition to call for anti-government demonstrations in Caracas and other cities in the near term. These protests are expected to be violent but are not expected to significantly alter the country’s status quo. As such, the OAS and other international allies of Guaido are likely to continue denouncing the government’s policies while issuing new economic sanctions. Regardless, a continued crackdown on dissent is expected in the medium term. 

 

Europe Actionable items

Albania: Air traffic controllers strike at TIA in Tirana ongoing since evening hours (local time) of April 6; remain cognizant of updates

Air traffic controllers at Tirana International Airport Mother Teresa (TIA) have been on strike since the evening hours (local time) of April 6, resulting in the suspension of all flights to and from the airport until April 8. The strike is scheduled to end at 10:00 (local time) on April 8 but reports indicate that the workers on strike will remain so for an indefinite period until their demands are met. The government sent military and police troops on the evening of April 7 to clear the striking workers from the air traffic control tower and Prime Minister Edi Rama has threatened to take legal action against the workers. Rama has accused President Ilir Meta of an attempted coup over his support of the strike. Although flights are set to resume from 10:00 on April 8, delays and cancellations are expected as not all striking workers may return to the control tower after the labor action officially ends. As of writing, no updates to flights scheduled in the afternoon hours of April 8 have been given.

Those intending to travel to or from TIA in Tirana on April 8 and the coming days are advised to remain cognizant of airport authorities’ updates pertaining to flight delays or cancellations. 

 

Austria: Multiple protests to be held in Vienna on April 9-10; maintain heightened vigilance

Reports indicate that multiple demonstrations are slated to take place in Vienna on April 9 and 10. On April 9, multiple groups will stage a protest against various policies implemented by the government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Demonstrators will gather at 16:00 (local time) at Stadtpark before marching towards the ruling Osterreichische Volkspartei (OVP) party’s headquarters. On April 10, far-right activists will stage a protest against COVID-19 restrictions at Votivpark at 12:00. In response, Antifa activists will stage a bicycle counter-protest at the same location and timing.

Based on precedent, the demonstrations are likely to witness an attendance ranging in the mid-to-high hundreds. Given heightened anti-government sentiment due to the ongoing restrictions, the protests carry a heightened potential for unrest in the form of clashes between protesters and security forces. Authorities are likely to use forcible dispersal methods in the event of widespread unrest. As such, a bolstered security presence is likely to be deployed in order to monitor proceedings. Significant traffic disruptions may be experienced during the slated timings.

Those operating or residing in Vienna on April 9-10 are advised to maintain heightened vigilance in the vicinity of the aforementioned locations due to the potential for unrest at the slated protests.

 

Europe: Countries continue to extend restrictions as COVID-19 cases surge regionwide on April 8; remain cognizant of authorities’ updates

In Austria, students in the final year of high school in the eastern states of Burgenland, Lower Austria, and Vienna will be allowed to go back to school from April 12. In Belgium, authorities have temporarily suspended the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for people under 55 years old over safety concerns, per April 7 reports. In Croatia, authorities have announced the extension of existing nationwide entry restrictions until at least April 15.  The European Union’s drug regulatory authority European Medicines Agency (EMA) has stated that it has found a possible link between the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and very rare cases of blood clots, per April 7 reports. In Germany, authorities in Bavaria announced that students and teachers will have to undergo COVID-19 tests two times a week and require negative test results to take part in in-person lessons, per April 7 reports. In Poland, authorities have extended the temporarily enhanced COVID-19 regulations through April 18. In Romania, authorities announced that those who had received their first COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca will receive their second of a different vaccine.

Those operating or residing in Europe on April 8 and the coming days are advised to remain cognizant of authorities’ instructions regarding quarantines, travel restrictions, and health procedures. 

 

Germany: Left-wing groups to hold protests against gentrification at Dorfplatz in Berlin on April 9-10; maintain vigilance

Reports indicate that activists associated with several left-wing groups will stage a demonstration to denounce the eviction of the “Liebigstrasse 34” apartment in Berlin on April 9-10. On April 9, the protesters will hold a rally at 16:00 (local time) at Dorfplatz. On April 10, a similar demonstration will be held, with protesters gathering at 12:00 at Dorfplatz. The apartment was evacuated by the police in October 2020.

Based on precedent, the demonstrations are expected to witness turnouts in the range of high-dozens to low-hundreds. Given the elevated sentiment over the issue and the participation of left-wing groups in the demonstrations, the protest carries a latent potential for unrest. Localized scuffles between the protesters and police officers cannot be ruled out. As such, a bolstered security presence is expected to be deployed in the vicinity of the protest to monitor proceedings and ensure compliance with current COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings. Significant disruptions to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic can be expected from the afternoon hours onwards.

Those operating or residing in Berlin on April 9-10 are advised to maintain vigilance in the vicinity of the above-slated demonstrations and allot for travel disruptions from the afternoon hours onwards.

 

Greece: Parents to protest changes to preschool education at Kotzia Square in Athens at 18:00 (local time) on April 8; maintain vigilance

A protest is slated to take place at 18:00 (local time) at Kotzia Square in Athens on April 8. The demonstration is organized by parents against proposed changes to preschool education services in the city. Given precedent and the protest issue, turnout is liable to be in the low hundreds. Considering current limits on gatherings due to COVID-19, a bolstered security presence can be expected in Kotzia Square’s vicinity to monitor proceedings and ensure social distancing. While the demonstration has been organized as a peaceful event, given limits on gatherings coupled with heightened unrest witnessed at recent protests in Athens, the demonstration carries a latent potential for unrest in the event that police decide to break up the rally. As such, localized clashes between police and protesters cannot be ruled out. In the case of widespread unrest, police are liable to use forcible dispersal methods, including water cannons and conducting arrests. Disruptions to vehicular and pedestrian traffic can be anticipated in the vicinity of Kotzia Square from the evening hours onwards.

Those operating or residing in Athens on April 8 are advised to maintain vigilance and allot for disruptions to travel in the vicinity of Kotzia Square from the evening hours onwards due to the planned protest.

 

UK: Violent clashes recorded in Belfast on April 7-8, further protests planned; avoid non-essential travel in vicinity of protests

Petrol bombs were thrown at police and property and a bus was set on fire on April 7-8 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Clashes occurred between unionists, republicans, and the police on what is known as the “peace line” dividing unionist and republican communities in west Belfast. Additionally, the violence marked the sixth consecutive day of such unrest throughout Northern Ireland. 

Tensions are liable to continue throughout Northern Ireland in the near-term as a political resolution to the differences is unlikely in the short-term. Despite major political leaders calling for a de-escalation, it is unlikely the leaders of the more extreme groups on both sides will listen to their calls, given a sense of disconnection between them and more mainstream parties. The violence is likely to continue and is liable to further escalate in the near-term, most prominently in Belfast, with protests planned on Donegal Road, Belfast, and in Portadown at 06:00 and 19:00 (local time) on April 9. Other spontaneous acts of violence can be anticipated, especially in Belfast, on April 9 and in the coming days. 

Those operating or residing in Northern Ireland on April 9 and the coming days are advised to avoid non-essential travel in the vicinity of protests given the uptick in violent clashes.

 

Europe Notable Events

Czech Republic: Third health minister expelled since beginning of pandemic on April 7; highlights disorganized public health response

Prime Minister Andrej Babis expelled Health Minister Jan Blatny on April 7 and replaced him with Petr Arenberger, the former director of Prague’s University Hospital Vinohrady. Blatny held the health ministry portfolio since October 2020 and was criticized by both Babis and President Milos Zeman due to his refusal to support the purchase of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine. Arenberger will be the fourth health minister in the country since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.

The fourth change in leadership at the health ministry highlights the government’s disorganized response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a slow vaccination rollout, as the Czech Republic remains one of the hardest hit countries in Europe. Further, Arenberger is liable to align with Babis and Zeman in favoring the procurement of Sputnik V vaccines, enabling the Czech Republic to increase vaccination rates in the near-to-medium term. Additionally, with parliamentary elections scheduled for October 8 and Babis’ ANO 2011 party struggling in the polls, Babis is liable to authorize Arenberger to take any steps needed to get the pandemic under control in the near-term.

 

Greenland (DK): Opposition IA party wins snap elections in Greenland on April 7; likely to form coalition with Naleraq party

The opposition left-wing Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party won Greenland’s snap parliamentary elections on April 7, gaining 36.6 percent of the vote and 12 seats in parliament. The election follows disagreements over the Kvanefjeld uranium mining complex, which led to the collapse of the ruling coalition in February. The IA party, as well as the Naleraq independence party, has strongly opposed the project. The pro-mining ruling social democratic Siumut party came second with 29.4 percent votes. 

Given that the IA party requires at least 16 of 31 seats to form a majority, it will likely seek a coalition with the Naleraq party, which won four seats, as both parties oppose the project. That the IA party stated it would not move forward with the project for environmental reasons, the potential ruling coalition is likely to face challenges from opposition parties over the possible loss of jobs and revenue, given that mining could allow Greenland greater autonomy from Denmark. Moreover, the decision to halt the project is likely to adversely affect Greenland’s economic interests, including its mining-friendly jurisdiction. 

 

North Macedonia: Nine interior ministry officials detained for fake passport issuing network on April 6; further arrests likely near-term

Nine officials of the Interior Ministry were reportedly detained on April 6 on suspicion of illegally issuing fake passports to foreign criminals. The detainees were arrested in a surveillance operation conducted by local authorities in coordination with the US embassy in Skopje and INTERPOL since 2019. 215 people had allegedly received the passports, including drug cartel suspects and high-profile criminals wanted under international warrants. Another suspect is also wanted for questioning. The arrests followed one day after the opposition VMRO DPMNE party accused the government of being behind a “criminal ring” that issued hundreds of fake passports to criminal suspects. 

The incident substantiates concerns over North Macedonia functioning as a service and logistical hub for international organized criminal groups, with government officials aiding their operations. Further, that the large-scale police operation followed a day after the VMRO DPMNE party’s allegations, indicates that the opposition party’s accusations likely prompted the announcement of the arrests by the government. Regardless, further such arrests as part of the surveillance operation are likely to be announced moving forward. 

 

Russia & USA: Washington completes review of Moscow’s alleged meddling, cyberattacks on April 7; sanctions likely to be announced near-term

The US administration has completed an intelligence review of Russia’s alleged election interference and cyberattacks and may soon announce retaliatory actions, according to an April 7 report by three undisclosed sources familiar with the matter. Reports indicate that possible moves could also involve the expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in the USA. Russian officials have stated they have no plans to restore full diplomatic representation in Washington “until it sees evidence that the USA is interested in building constructive relations between the two countries”.

These political developments reflect mounting tensions between Moscow and Washington, supported by Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushed stating that the relations between Moscow and Washington are currently at the lowest point since the end of the Cold War. With Washington already imposing sanctions on several Russian officials in response to the imprisonment of opposition Activist Alexei Navalny in March, further sanctions against Moscow over the aforementioned issues are likely in the coming days. In response, Moscow is liable to continue engaging in cyberattacks and escalating its disinformation campaign targeting the USA moving forward. 

 

Spain: Left-wing activists, police clash at far-right VOX rally in Vallecas, Madrid on April 7; reflects potential for unrest at such events

Two people were arrested and 14 injured on April 7 after left-wing activists clashed with police during a rally held by the far-right VOX party in Vallecas, Madrid. Activists and local residents threw stones and bottles at police and at VOX leader Santiago Abascal. The event was part of VOX’s campaign ahead of the snap regional elections in Madrid scheduled for May 4. During the previous election in 2019, only five percent of Vallecas residents voted for VOX, while left-wing parties obtained 77 percent of the votes. 

These developments reflect the heightened potential for unrest at VOX rallies held in areas where VOX does not enjoy broad support, as evidenced by similar clashes reported at rallies in the Basque Country in June 2020 and in Catalonia in February 2021. Given that Vallecas is a left-wing stronghold, opposition parties are liable to accuse VOX of purposefully staging the rally to provoke local residents and activists. Given heightened sentiments against VOX in multiple neighborhoods across Madrid, instances of unrest are likely at upcoming VOX rallies leading up to the vote. 

 

Notable Dates

April 9

  • Kosovo: Kosovo Constitution Day

 

April 10

  • France: Protest in Paris
  • Germany: Rally in Berlin
  • UK: Protest in Bristol

 

April 11

  • Chile: Public Holiday
  • Costa Rica: Juan Santamaria Day
  • Peru, Ecuador: General Elections

 

April 11

  • Germany: Protest in Berlin

 

April 13

  • France: Inter-union strike in Paris

 

April 14

  • Cayman Islands: Public Holiday – General Elections

 

April 19

  • Honduras: Americas’ Day Holiday
  • Venezuela: Independence Declaration Day

 

April 21

  • Brazil: Tiradentes Day 
  • Falkland Islands: Queen’s Birthday

 

April 22

  • Iceland: Sumardagurinn fyrsti