Worldview Security Update – August 20, 2020
20-Aug-20

AMERICAS

Mexico (Security threat level – 4): As of 0600 local time (1200 UTC) on 20 August 2020, Hurricane Genevieve has weakened into a Category 1 storm, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. At that time, Genevieve was located approximately 115 km (70 mi) west of the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula and about 240 km south-southeast of the city of Cabo San Lazaro in Baja California Sur state. The storm was traveling northwest at 13 kph (8 mph) and generating maximum sustained winds of 130 kph, with higher gusts. Genevieve is projected to continue weakening as it passes near the southwestern portion of the Baja California Peninsula on 20 August before shifting away from the coast on 21 August. Rainfall of between of 100-200 mm (4-8 in), with isolated maximums of up to 300 mm, is forecast across southern portions of the Baja California Peninsula until 20 August. While the storm is not forecast to come ashore, hurricane conditions are possible along a portion of the Baja California Peninsula from Los Barriles to Todos Santos, while tropical storm conditions are expected from Cabo San Lazaro to La Paz. Additionally, swells generated by the storm are expected to create hazardous surf and riptide conditions along coastal areas of southwestern Mexico and the Baja California Peninsula through 20 August.

On the morning of 20 August, gusts of 116 kph were reported near the resort town of Cabo San Lucas. Local authorities on 19 August encouraged residents of low-lying areas to move temporarily to shelters; more than 10,000 families live in informal settlements located in flood-prone areas near the city. Two people drowned in the Cabo San Lucas area on 18 August due to high surf conditions brought on by Genevieve. The city’s mayor stated that medical personnel will isolate individuals arriving at the shelters who are infected with COVID-19.  
The Mexican government has issued a Hurricane Warning for the southern Baja California Peninsula from the city of Los Barriles to the city of Todos Santos. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the areas north of the city of Todos Santos to the city of Cabo San Lazaro. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the areas located in between the cities of Los Barriles and La Paz.

United States (Security threat level – 2): Several Northern California wildfires are ongoing as of 20 August 2020, and have prompted officials to evacuate thousands of residents. A series of blazes in an area west of Sacramento, the state capital, spread to consume 125,000 acres (50,585 hectares) of land the previous day after forcing evacuations of residential neighborhoods in the city of Vacaville, located approximately 35 mi (55 km) southwest of Sacramento. These fires, which are affecting Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties, remain zero percent contained. At least four residents have been injured and 175 buildings have been destroyed. An additional 25,000 structures in the area remain vulnerable. In Solano County, a U.S. Air Force base ordered all non-mission essential personnel to evacuate the facility on the night of 19 August. Meanwhile, closer to the San Francisco Bay area, additional wildfires — which are ongoing in areas of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Santa Clara and Stanislaus counties — have consumed 102,000 acres of land and pose a threat to approximately 5,000 structures. These blazes are 5 percent contained. Farther south, approximately 22,000 residents in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties are under evacuation orders due to the fires, which have consumed 25,000 acres of land and are threatening more than 6,500 structures. Separately, in Fresno County, a firefighting helicopter crashed while attempting to drop water, killing the pilot. The governor of California has stated that there are 23 major wildfires — many of them ignited by lightning strikes — ongoing in the state and has requested hundreds of fire engines and about 1,000 personnel from other U.S. states to battle the blazes.

ASIA

China / India (Security threat levels – 3 / 3): On 20 August 2020, authorities in China’s capital Beijing partially lifted a mandatory face mask requirement for public areas. Under the revised order, individuals do not have to wear a face mask if they are with friends or family. However, they are still required to cover their faces while in contact with anyone else.

In India’s Punjab state, on 20 August the chief minister extended coronavirus-related restrictions through 31 August. An ongoing statewide nightly curfew now runs from 1900-0500 local time (1330-2330 UTC); the curfew previously began at 2100 local time. Additionally, all public gatherings, except weddings and funerals, are banned. Businesses and government offices must operate at 50% capacity. In the Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala and SAS Nagar districts, limits on public transportation are also in effect; buses must operate at 50% capacity, and private vehicles must not have more than three occupants per vehicle.

EUROPE

Belarus (Security threat level – 3): On 19 August 2020, approximately 3,000 demonstrators gathered at Independence Square in the capital Minsk to demand the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko. Earlier in the day, several hundred protesters had gathered in front of the Interior Ministry building in Minsk. Elsewhere in Belarus, approximately 5,000 demonstrators gathered in Grodno and several hundred protested in Gomel. Despite Lukashenko’s order to security forces to end the protests, there were no reports of violence at these gatherings. Police officers were present, but reports indicate they did not detain anyone.

However, police officers did disperse a smaller demonstration of approximately 300 workers at Minsk Tractor Works (MTZ), where they detained at least two individuals. Additionally, at least 300 miners rallied in Salihorsk — located approximately 135 km (85 mi) south of Minsk. A strike organizer noted that the number of workers on strike at MTZ had diminished significantly; only about 300 MTZ workers were observing strike on 19 August compared to several thousand on 14 August.

Separately, the EU agreed to not recognize the results of the 9 August presidential election and is likely to impose sanctions on the leaders of the current regime. Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who contested the election, announced the establishment of a council to coordinate a transfer of power. Lukashenko has since announced a criminal investigation into the council.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Mali (Security threat level – 5): As of 20 August 2020, the political situation in Mali remains uncertain amid the aftermath of the military uprising on 18 August. On 19 August army Colonel Assimi Goita declared himself the president of the military junta known as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) — which ousted the government — making him the country’s de facto leader until new elections are held or another leader is put forward. The CNSP has also asked officials and government workers to return to work immediately.

On 19 August the head of the opposition June 5 Movement (M5), which had led demonstrations against former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita since June, met with CNSP leaders and later announced his withdrawal from politics. M5 subsequently declared its support for the uprising and promised to assist the CNSP in creating a transitional roadmap. The junta government also released all M5 prisoners.

Among the international community, there is a significant concern that the internal destabilization within Mali will allow a resurgence of the Islamist militant threat, primarily in northern areas of the country. Militants initially gained a foothold in the country following the 2012 coup d’état and continued to gain traction in subsequent years. The French government stated that its Operation Barkhane — a military operation against militant Islamist groups in the Sahel region, including northern Mali — will continue. The operation was initially authorized by the U.N. Security Council, and a spokesperson for the CNSP previously stated that international agreements would be upheld.

In a related development, following the decision of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to suspend Mali from the bloc and close land and air borders, the government of Côte d’Ivoire suspended all economic and financial relations with Mali. The African Union likewise suspended Mali from the regional bloc.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Eritrea (Security threat level – 3): On 20 August 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Asmara issued a Health Alert, which reads in part as follows:

"Restrictions are in place throughout the country to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Government offices have suspended many routine services. Some non-essential businesses are closed; essential businesses close at 8 p.m. Public transportation has stopped services until further notice and most private cars are banned from the road. Visit the Eritrean government website (shabait.com) for updates as they are announced."  

The full text of the alert can be found here .