Worldview Security Update – February 20, 2020
20-Feb-20

AMERICAS

Brazil (Security threat level – 3): On 19 February 2020, Brazilian authorities deployed the national guard to the northeastern state of Ceara after a senator was shot and wounded in the town of Sobral. The shooting occurred when the senator attempted to intervene and end a strike by military police demanding increased salaries. Video of the event shows that two bullets hit the senator who was driving a construction digger toward the gate of a police barrack — behind which masked police officers were protesting. The origin of the gunfire remains unknown. The senator was admitted to the hospital, reportedly in stable condition. Members of the military police have been conducting strikes and protests over the past few months to demand pay increases.

Colombia (Security threat level – 4): In the morning hours of 20 February 2020, the Colombian Federation of Education Workers (FECODE) began a 48-hour nationwide strike to denounce state-sponsored violence and the persecution of teachers. In Bogotá, members of FECODE plan to gather at the Fiduprevisora on Calle 72 at 0900 local time (1400 UTC) and march along Avenida 15 and Avenida 100 to the Ministry of Labor building on Carrera 7, where the protest will end at 1300 local time. Authorities have closed Calle 72 between Carrera 7 and Avenida Caracas from 0800-1300 local time due to the march. Earlier in the morning, dozens of truck drivers participated in the strike by blocking lanes on Avenida Caracas and Calle 80 in southern Bogotá, causing traffic disruptions in the area.

Meanwhile, members of the Colombian National Strike Committee (CNP) are expected to stage a new round of anti-government protests beginning on 21 February. The upcoming protests will likely cause disruptions to transportation and other public services. Violence is an ever-present concern during such gatherings; as such, travelers and expatriates in Colombia should avoid all large gatherings to mitigate the threat of being collaterally affected by protest-related violence.

AUSTRALASIA

Australia (Security threat level – 2): At approximately 1945 local time (0845 UTC) on 20 February 2020, a train with approximately 160 passengers aboard derailed nearly 45 km (25 mi) north of Melbourne. The Melbourne-bound train derailed as it was regaining speed after stopping briefly due to a signaling problem; the train originated in Sydney. At least two individuals were killed and 12 more suffered injuries, with one injured critically. Rescue operations concluded by 2100 local time; however, rail services between Sydney and Melbourne remain suspended until further notice. Authorities have opened an investigation to determine the cause of the derailment.

EUROPE

France (Security threat level – 3): Union leaders for Air France domestic carrier Hop have called for strikes over low wages and poor working conditions on 21-22 and 24 February 2020. Ground crews have called for work stoppages at Paris Orly Airport (LFPO/ORY) and regional stopovers on 21-22 February; in addition, Hop pilots have announced that they will strike on 24 February. While Air France officials have not announced cancellations, flight disruptions are likely throughout the strike period. Travelers should check the status of their flights.

Germany (Security threat level – 3): At approximately 2200 local time (2100 UTC) on 19 February 2020, a gunman opened fire inside a hookah bar on Heumarkt street in downtown Hanau, located approximately 25 km (15 mi) east of Frankfurt. The assailant then drove to the Kesselstadt district — located nearly 3 km (2 mi) away — and fired on a second bar before he returned to his residence and committed suicide. A total of 11 people — including the gunman and his mother — were killed and four others were injured during the episode. At the gunman’s residence, police officials discovered materials related to far-right extremism, including a letter and video expressing his motives for attacking ethnic minorities. The attacker is not believed to have been a part of an organized far-right terrorist network.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Dominican Republic (Security threat level – 3): On 19 February 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo issued a Demonstration Alert, which reads in part as follows:
“Locations: Government offices in Santo Domingo, and cities and towns throughout the Dominican Republic.

“Event: The recent suspension of municipal elections has resulted in protests that could continue up to the rescheduled elections on March 15th. Protests have occurred outside of the Junta Central Electoral in Santo Domingo, but major government buildings like Congress or the Presidential Palace could also be targeted. Protests are expected in many cities throughout the country, typically outside government buildings or symbolic locations. Protests can disrupt traffic and should be avoided as they have the potential to become confrontational quickly.”

Guinea (Security threat level – 4): On 20 February 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Guinea, which reads in part as follows: “Legislative elections will be held 1 March combined with a constitutional referendum. There have been regular demonstrations in Guinea since October 2019 leading to significant travel disruption and a number of violent incidents including deaths. Protests in Middle Guinea in January led to several public buildings being ransacked and set on fire and increased criminal activity. The National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) are calling for further demonstrations. Demonstrations may be spontaneous and unpredictable with routes blocked and there has previously been damage to vehicles while passing through or around demonstrations as well as an increase in criminality. It is anticipated that the demonstrations will continue beyond 1 March. You should exercise caution and be vigilant, staying clear of demonstrations and monitor local media.”