Worldview Security Report – December 20, 2018
20-Dec-18

ASIA

South Korea (Security threat level – 2): On 20 December 2018, hundreds of thousands of taxi drivers across South Korea went on strike to protest against the launch of carpooling service Kakao Mobility, which will enable people to find private cars for joint rides. The taxi drivers contend that the service is illegal and will destroy their livelihoods. The strike disrupted commuter travel across the country; some taxis blocked roads outside the city of Daejon, disrupting traffic. Tens of thousands of taxi drivers also gathered for a rally held outside the country’s National Assembly in downtown Seoul; the protest was peaceful. The strike and demonstration occurred days after a taxi driver set himself on fire over plans to introduce the carpooling service; Kakao Mobility delayed the official launch of its service after the suicide.

EUROPE

Portugal (Security threat level – 2): According to reports on 20 December 2018, several demonstrations are scheduled to occur throughout Portugal on 21 December to protest issues such as tax rates, low wages and fuel prices. The protests, which are reportedly inspired by the ongoing “yellow vest” movement in France, are currently receiving interest from approximately 60,000 people on various social media platforms. Organizers plan to demonstrate in several cities, including at Lisbon’s Marquis de Pombal Square, on Porto’s Via de Cintura Interna and in its Francos area, near Aveiro’s Pingo Doce de Esgueira, along Braga’s Andrade Corvo, in front of Beja’s city hall, near Faro’s Forum Algarve, and in Coimbra, Portimão, Ovar, Vila Nova de Famalicão, Viseu, Santarem and Guarda. Protest organizers in Lisbon also intend to use vehicles to block the 25 de Abril bridge. Demonstrators also plan to block roads, particularly targeting the A1 and A8 motorways and the IC19.

Authorities expect a large number of protesters to participate in the demonstrations nationwide. The head of the Association of Police Professionals (ASPP) estimated that approximately 20,000 police officers will be deployed to monitor the protests across Portugal and stated that the majority of requests for time off on 21 December had been suspended to ensure maximum mobilization of officers. Covert and plainclothes police officers will reportedly be deployed to sensitive locations across the country. “Yellow vest” protests have resulted in considerable violence and disruptions in other countries, particularly France; while the organizers have called for “civism” during the demonstrations and stated that the protests will occur peacefully, violence remains possible. Additionally, traffic disruptions can be expected, especially in major metropolitan areas.

Spain (Security threat level – 3): On 20-21 December 2018, several Catalan pro-independence groups have called for protests throughout the region to coincide with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s cabinet meeting in Barcelona. On 20 December, organizers will hold a protest at approximately 2000 local time (1900 UTC) at the Placa de Pius XII and Carrer de Sabino Arana in western Barcelona. On 21 December, the Comites de Defensa de la Republica (CDR) has called for roadblocks beginning early in the day, particularly near the Casa Llotja de Mar where the cabinet meeting will be held; the group has also called for another demonstration at the Jardinets de Gracia (officially known as the Jardines de Salvador Espriu) beginning at 1800 local time. The Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) announced that protesters across Catalonia will travel to Barcelona throughout the day, disrupting traffic with large concentrations of vehicles.

Spanish authorities and the U.S. Consulate General in Barcelona have warned of the potential for traffic disruptions and violence during the 21 December demonstrations. Notably, the Casa Llotja de Mar is located in central Barcelona near important sites and tourist districts, and protests near this location will likely disrupt movement in the city center. The Spanish government also announced that it will deploy 9,000 officers to the region on 21 December to provide security during the demonstrations.

Meanwhile, the union Intersindical-CSC has also called for a general strike in the region on 21 December between 1230 to 1430 local time. These events will coincide with a national rail strike organized by the Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) to protest job cuts and working conditions. This strike will affect Renfe and Adif rail services throughout the day on 21 December. Ahead of the strike, Renfe has canceled at least 571 trains, including 160 long-distance services, and 411 medium-distance services and regional trains.

Analyst Comment: The date of 21 December marks one year since a regional parliamentary election was held in which pro-independence parties held on to their majority. The vote was called after former Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dismissed the Catalan government following the controversial 1 October independence referendum, which was declared illegal by the Spanish constitutional court. Following the referendum, widespread violence broke out between Spanish security forces and Catalan independence supporters. The prime minister’s decision to hold his cabinet meeting in Barcelona on the anniversary of the election is seen by many pro-independence groups as a provocation; in addition, the presence of national security officers in Catalonia remains a sensitive issue, and the deployment of troops in the region will likely add to the tense nature of the situation.

United Kingdom (Security threat level – 3): As of 20 December 2018, flight operations at London’s Gatwick International Airport (EGKK/LGW) remain suspended after at least two drones were sighted near the runway. The airport was initially closed at 2103 UTC on 19 December, and flights were delayed and diverted to nearby airports while operations were suspended. Authorities gave the all clear to resume normal operations at 0301 UTC on 20 December, after a helicopter patrol through the nearby airspace found no drones in the area. However, operations were subsequently shut down again at 0345 UTC after drones once again reappeared in the area. At least 760 flights have been canceled thus far, affecting approximately 110,000 passengers. It remains unclear when the airport will resume operations. As of 1320 UTC, Eurocontrol has stated that the airport will remain closed until at least 1700 UTC. Travelers should avoid traveling to Gatwick Airport at this time and should check on the status of their flights with their airlines.

Reports indicate that knock-on delays will likely affect travelers for at least 24 hours, although Gatwick airport’s chief operating officer stated that it could take several days for operations to fully normalize. Police officers have stated that they believe that at least one of the drones involved is an “industrial drone” or “not a standard, off-the-shelf type of drone” and that the actions to disrupt the airport are deliberate, but not believed to be terror-related at this time. At least 20 police units are searching for the drone operators. While authorities originally stated that they would not shoot the drones down due to fears that stray bullets could harm members of the public, they are reportedly reconsidering this option now. Under British law, it is illegal to fly drone within 1 km (.62 mi) of an airport boundary; the operators involved may face up to five years in prison.

United Kingdom (Security threat level – 3): According to reports from 18 December 2018, workers on the Central and Waterloo & City lines plan to launch a strike on 21-22 December. The strike will begin at 2100 local time/UTC on 21 December and last until 2359 local time on 22 December. During this period, there will be very limited or no services on either line. The Central line, which is the busiest line on the Underground system, will resume services at 0000 local time on 23 December; services on the Waterloo & City line will resume on 24 December. Transport for London (TfL), the body responsible for the transportation system in the city, advised that other services will be busier during these civil actions, as commuters seek alternate means of travel. TfL will also deploy additional buses during this time. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) called for the strike to protest staffing issues.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Sudan (Security threat level – 5): On 20 December 2018, police officers in riot gear broke up a group of 150 anti-government demonstrators who had gathered in Khartoum to protest against high prices and a decrease in government subsidies. Police officers used tear gas after the protesters began blocking a main street in the city. There were no reports of injuries.

Meanwhile, on 19 December, the city of Atbara — located in northeastern Sudan — declared a state of emergency following violent protests over bread shortages and a government proposal to suspend bread subsidies. The protesters threw rocks and set fire to the ruling National Conference Party’s office, the local government’s office, a fuel station and several cars. Police officers responded by firing tear gas to disperse the protesters. There were no reports of injuries. Per the state of emergency, a curfew is in effect in the city from 1800 to 0600 local time (1600 to 0400 UTC). Similar protests over the lack of bread also occurred in the cities of al-Qadarif, Dongola and Port Sudan. In al-Qadarif, there were reports of arson and looting, and at least one protester was killed; there were no reports of violence in the other two cities.




GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Bangladesh (Security threat level – 4):
On 20 December 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows:

  • “Location: Gulshan-1, Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • “Event: Local media sources report that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will attend a political campaign meeting at the Gulshan Youth Club Field in the Gulshan-1 area on Friday, December 21, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. You should expect traffic congestion, large crowds and small rallies in the Gulshan area throughout the day.
  • “Previous political events in Bangladesh have turned violent. We remind you to avoid large crowds, carry valid identification, keep a charged mobile phone on you and remain aware of your surroundings at all times.”

  • Democratic Republic Of The Congo (Security threat level – 5): On 19 December 2018, the French government updated its travel advisory for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to warn of the possibility of violence, significant public disorder and large rallies related to the 23 December general elections. In its advisory, the French recommended the postponement of all travel to the DRC until 15 January and counseled its travelers in the country to stockpile supplies, and avoid demonstrations, gatherings and processions during the election period.


    Democratic Republic Of The Congo (Security threat level – 5): On 19 December 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Kinsahsa issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows:

  • “Location: Kinshasa/DRC
  • “Event: […] The Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid the area of N’Djili Airport and large crowds and demonstrations on the day of the election and the preceding days.] The U.S. Embassy has also received reports of a possible closure of all land and maritime borders in the DRC from 12/22- 12/24, which could cause further congestion and crowds at border and maritime crossings. The U.S. Embassy has received reports that borders may close for 24 hours on 12/22 but that international flights will continue.”
  • Haiti (Security threat level – 4): On 20 December 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows:

  • “Locations: Avenue Christophe in the vicinity of INAGHIE
  • “Events: Reports of burning tires.”

  • Portugal (Security threat level – 2): On 20 December 2018, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Portugal, which reads in part as follows: “Planned strike action by Portuguese immigration officers on 26, 27 and 28 December may cause delays. If you’re travelling on these dates, allow for additional time to clear border controls when entering and exiting Portugal.


    Venezuela (Security threat level – 4): On 20 December 2018, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Venezuela, which reads in part as follows: “You should take particular care to check the local situation ahead of any travel to Canaima National Park and the Gran Sabana area of Bolívar State. Recent protests by locals have led to the closure (sometimes for days) of Canaima airport and main roads (eg parts of Road 10 between El Callao and the Brazilian border); and there are particular shortages of fuel and other essentials in the area.”


    Security threat levels range from 1 (Very Low) to 5 (Very High) and are determined using a comprehensive system that utilizes both qualitative and quantitative analysis. The primary factors used to determine a location’s security threat level are Armed Conflict, Crime, Demonstrations/Strikes, Ethnic/Sectarian Tensions, Graft/Corruption, Kidnapping, Political Instability, Government Restriction and Terrorism.