AMERICAS Argentina / Jamaica / Panama (Security threat levels –...
Brazil (Security threat level – 3): On 6 January 2019, criminal groups continued to conduct attacks in the northeastern state of Ceara despite the deployment of approximately 300 members of the National Police Force on 5 January. Criminal groups attacked buses, cars and gas stations in the capital Fortaleza, as well as in at least six other cities in the state. At least two people have been killed in shootouts with police officers. Authorities have arrested more than 100 people. Criminal groups allegedly ordered the attacks in retaliation for tougher security measures at local prisons.
Chile (Security threat level – 2): On 4 January 2019, an explosion occurred at a Transantiago bus stop in Santiago, located at the intersection of Avenida Vicuña Mackenna and Francisco Bilbao. Police officials reported that the device detonated from inside a trash can at the bus stop, injuring five people. The eco-terrorist group “Individualists Tending to the Wild (ITS)” claimed responsibility for the attack and threatened to carry out further attacks. Authorities have not yet confirmed who was responsible.
India (Security threat level – 3): On 7 January 2019, reports emerged that 10 major trade unions have called for a nationwide strike on 8-9 January to protest against alleged “anti-worker” government policies. According to media reports, employees of state-run banks, private and public transportation services, power companies and farmers are expected to take part in the strike. Schools and colleges in some regions have announced closures for the duration of the strike as well. Emergency services — including hospital and fire department services — will remain open.
The upcoming strike is expected to be widely adhered to nationwide, although the overall level of impact on services will vary state by state. Preliminary reports indicate that the strike will be widely observed in Kerala state, but not strongly observed in Tamil Nadu state where authorities have threatened that participating employees will not receive pay. Meanwhile, other states will likely implement measures to ensure that a basic level of service is provided; for example, in West Bengal, the government has pledged to take measures to ensure that buses are operational.
The strike will likely be accompanied by protests, which have the potential to turn violent. Travelers should avoid all public gatherings as a precaution. Travelers should also monitor the news closely in order to determine which modes of transportation will be affected by the strike in their respective cities, as such closures will vary between locations. Travelers should also consider withdrawing sufficient funds prior to 8 January to last them through the duration of the strike in order to avoid being inconvenienced by potential bank closures.
Australia (Security threat level – 2): As of 1900 local time (0900 UTC) on 7 January 2019, Tropical Cyclone Penny was located approximately 600 km (380 mi) southeast of Cairns, Queensland state, Australia. At that time, the storm was posting maximum sustained winds of 75 kph with higher gusts and was moving west-southwest at a speed of 13 kph. The storm is currently projected to make landfall near Townsville, located on the northeastern coast of Queensland state, on the evening of 8 January or the morning of 9 January. Local authorities warned that Penny could bring heavy winds and rainfall to the eastern coast of Queensland as early as 8 January.
France (Security threat level – 3): On 5 January 2019, tens of thousands of people participated in “yellow vest” demonstrations across France. Authorities estimated that 50,000 people participated in the protests nationwide, a larger turnout than the approximately 32,000 people who demonstrated across France on 29 December. In Paris, an estimated 4,000 people took to the streets. Clashes broke out near the Seine River when police officers prevented marchers from approaching the National Assembly building; protesters threw projectiles at police officers, who responded with tear gas. Protesters also set fire to barricades, trash cans, cars and motorcycles on Boulevard Saint Germain; a river boat on the Seine also caught on fire. At least one police officer was injured in the clashes. Separately, a smaller group of yellow vest protesters used a forklift to ram the front gates of the Ministry for Relations with Parliament building on Rue de Grenelle. Protesters then entered the compound grounds and smashed windows and vehicles. The breach forced several government workers to evacuate. In addition, protesters also used the forklift to attack several banks on Rue de Grenelle in the 7th arrondissement. A government spokesperson stated that authorities are using security footage to attempt to identify the perpetrators. No arrests have been reported in connection to the ministry building attack; however, at least 35 people were arrested in yellow vest protests across Paris.
Outside of Paris, demonstrations also occurred in Rouen, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Lyon, among other cities. In Rouen, approximately 2,000 people participated in the protests; at least two people were arrested and one protester was injured after demonstrators set fire to a barricade. In Bordeaux, approximately 4,600 protesters marched through the city. Clashes broke out when protesters threw stones at police officers, who responded with tear gas and water cannons. Authorities reported that protesters burned several vehicles and broke shop windows. At least five people were injured and 11 were arrested in the city. In Toulouse, approximately 2,000 people participated in a protest; at least 22 protesters were arrested after clashing with police officers. In Lyon, thousands of protesters blocked the A7 motorway, disrupting traffic in the area. In total, approximately 345 people were arrested across France.
Germany (Security threat level – 3): On 7 January 2019, approximately 400 security staff at Berlin’s airports went on strike over stalled wage negotiations. The work stoppage lasted from 0500 to 0845 local time (0400 to 0745 UTC). Approximately 80 flights at Berlin’s Tegel Airport (EDDT/TXL) and Schönefeld Airport (EDDB/SXF) were delayed for several hours or canceled, with the majority of affected flights traveling through Tegel Airport. As of the latest reports, there are currently long wait times at all airport terminals; authorities representing both airports advised passengers to check the status of their flight before traveling to the airports, as further cancellations are possible.
United Kingdom (Security threat level – 3) : On 5 January 2019, approximately 100 people participated in a “yellow vest” demonstration in central London to support the British exit from the European Union. Beginning at approximately 1100 local time/UTC, protesters blocked Westminster Bridge and the roads surrounding Parliament Square, setting off smoke bombs and bringing traffic in the area to a standstill. Transport for London (TfL), the body responsible for the transportation system in the city, stated that the protest disrupted bus operations and caused several routes to be delayed or diverted. At least four protesters were arrested after scuffles broke out between demonstrators and police officers.
Gabon (Security threat level – 3): At approximately 0430 local time (0530 UTC) on 7 January 2019, five military officers seized control of the state radio station in Libreville and announced plans to institute a “National Restoration Council” in a failed coup attempt. In his address, Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang — the leader of the self-declared Patriotic Movement of the Defence and Security Forces of Gabon — called on fellow soldiers and citizens to arm themselves and take control of military bases, airports and border crossings “in the interests of the nation.” The coup plotters used tanks to block access to the radio station and gunshots were reported in the area; however, no other instances of notable violence were reported during the episode. Several hours later, a government spokesperson stated that authorities had arrested the coup plotters and regained control of the state radio station.
Following the attempted coup, authorities imposed a curfew in Libreville. There are reports of military tanks and armed vehicles patrolling the city, and internet connectivity in the city has been cut. There are also reports that internet access has been disrupted in Port-Gentil. While media reports indicate that conditions in the capital are calm, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the U.S. Embassy in Libreville have reported that sporadic gunfire is occurring in the city. The full text of the U.S. Embassy warning can be read in the “Government Warnings” section below.
Analyst Comment: The coup attempt comes as President Ali Bongo Ondimba has been out of the country for the last several months seeking treatment for a stroke he suffered in October 2018. While the president gave a New Year’s address to ease concerns regarding his health, the leader of the attempted coup criticized the president’s “pitiful” New Year’s message, stating that it “reinforced doubts about his ability to assume the responsibilities of his role as President of the Republic.”
Sudan (Security threat level – 5): On 6 January 2019, security forces clashed with protesters demanding the resignation of President Omar al Bashir in central Khartoum. Protesters marched from various locations in central Khartoum and converged on the presidential palace, located on the banks of the Nile. Authorities blocked a bridge located near the palace, which links the capital with the city of Omdurman, in order to prevent protesters from Omdurman from joining the demonstration. Police officers repeatedly used tear gas in an effort to disperse the crowds. According to local media sources, an unspecified number of professors and journalists were arrested. There were no reports regarding casualties. There were also reports of protests in Wad Madani, located approximately 160 km (100 mi) southeast of the capital. As in Khartoum, police deployed tear gas against protesters in Wad Madani, but there no reports of significant violence or arrests. The protests in both cities were organized by a coalition of unions that oppose al Bashir’s administration.
Austria (Security threat level – 2): On 4 January 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Vienna issued a Weather Alert, which reads in part as follows:
Gabon (Security threat level – 3): On 7 January 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Libreville issued a Security Alert regarding a failed coup and possible anti-government activity, which reads in part as follows:
Philippines (Security threat level – 4): On 7 January 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice regarding the procession of the Black Nazarene, which reads in part as follows:
Venezuela (Security threat level – 4): On 4 January 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows:
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.