Worldview Security Update – February 21, 2020
21-Feb-20

AMERICAS

Colombia (Security threat level – 4): On 21 February 2020, the Colombian Federation of Education Workers (FECODE) is continuing to observe the second day of its 48-hour nationwide strike to denounce a rise in violence against teachers — 14 teachers were killed in 2019 and 230 teachers have received death threats in 2020. In Bogotá, thousands of protesters gathered at Parque Nacional at 0900 local time (1400 UTC) to march along Carrera 7, 13 and 10, Avenida Jiménez, Carrera 7 and conclude with a rally at Plaza de Bolívar. In Medellín, protesters gathered at 0900 local time in the Parque de las Luces to march along Avenida Este and conclude at the offices of the Adida union. In Bucaramanga, protesters staged a sit-in at the Foscal Fosunab hospital at 1000 local time. In Cali, protesters gathered at Parque de las Banderas at 0900 local time to march along Calle 5, Carrera 10, Calle 9 and conclude at the Plazoleta de San Francisco. Thus far, there have been no reports of violence in any of the demonstrations.

The Colombian National Strike Committee (CNP) has joined the FECODE-planned national strike, in addition to staging its own anti-government protests across the country as negotiations with the Colombian government continue. The CNP has demanded that the Colombian government fulfill its demands, including the immediate dissolution of the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD) that is blamed for killing dozens of protesters over the last two decades.

AUSTRALASIA

South Pacific Islands (Security threat level – 1): According to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), as of 0900 UTC on 21 February 2020, Tropical Cyclone Vicky was located approximately 155 km (95 mi) south of Pago Pago, American Samoa, and was moving south at a speed of 17 kph (10 mph). At that time, Vicky was generating maximum sustained winds of 74 kph, with gusts of up to 93 kph. On its current path, the storm is expected to pass near Niue by 22 February. Meteorologists have forecast possible gusts of up to 120 kph and heavy rainfall in Niue during the passage of the storm.

EUROPE

Belgium (Security threat level – 3): On 21 February 2020, airport police officers at Brussels Airport (EBBR/BRU) initiated a work-to-rule (go-slow) strike over poor working conditions and staff shortages. The industrial action has caused significant disruptions and delays in the security checks process. The strike is expected to end at approximately 1600 local time (1500 UTC), but additional such strikes can occur with little notice throughout the upcoming weekend of 22-23 February and union leaders have issued a strike notice through 1 March. Officials have warned travelers to arrive at least three hours early to the airport.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Saudi Arabia (Security threat level – 3): On 21 February 2020, the Saudi Arabian military claimed that it had intercepted and destroyed several ballistic missiles originating from Yemen’s capital Sanaa, which were aimed at Saudi cities. Saudi authorities did not disclose which cities had been targeted, but the missiles were reportedly directed at the oil-exporting city of Yanbu, located on Saudi Arabia’s western coast. The Saudi military blames the Houthi militants in Yemen for the attempted attack, which did not cause any casualties or damage on the ground.

Analyst Comment: Fighting in Yemen between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed government forces has escalated significantly in recent weeks, amid an apparent stalemate in negotiations between Houthi rebels and the Saudi government. The latest Houthi missile attack belies a general downward trend since late 2019, when the negotiations initially began between the two parties.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Sudan (Security threat level – 5): On 20 February 2020, thousands of people gathered in the capital Khartoum to protest the forced resignation of several military officers. In response, security forces deployed tear gas and used batons in an attempt to disperse the protesters, who burned tires and blocked roads in the city. According to the Sudanese Doctors’ Committee, nearly 20 people were injured during the clashes, one of whom suffered gunshot wounds. The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) organized the 20 February protest to demand that authorities reinstate the military officers who had participated in the SPA-led protests that led to the ouster of former President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. These were the first clashes between protesters and security forces since the formation of the joint civil-military ruling council in August 2019.

Togo (Security threat level – 4): On 20 February 2020, authorities in Togo reversed an earlier decision to close the country’s land borders with Benin, Ghana and Burkina Faso during the upcoming presidential election scheduled to take place on 22 February. Authorities stated that the closure was no longer deemed necessary, as the borders already have sufficient security. Despite this announcement, borders may still be closed partially or completely during the election. Travelers should avoid overland travel to and from Togo on 22 February.

Analyst Comment: Incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe is largely anticipated to win the election following constitutional reforms that passed in 2019, which allow him to potentially serve two additional terms. Additionally, the C14 opposition coalition — which comprised of 14 opposition parties — has largely dissolved following the failed attempt to prevent Gnassingbe’s eligibility for additional terms. If no candidate receives a majority, a second round will occur at an as yet unannounced time. Violence is possible on the polling day, especially near polling stations, and the likelihood of further unrest is heightened immediately after election results are released.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Bulgaria (Security threat level – 3): On 21 February 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Sofia issued a Demonstration Alert, which reads in part as follows:

“Event: All US citizens and their family members are advised to avoid the areas impacted by the annual Lukov March and a counter-march, both planned for Saturday, February 22, 2020. The first march starts at 1:00 pm, but we advise staff and families to avoid the area from noon. The “No to Nazis on our Streets” march is planned for Saturday, February 22, 2020, beginning at 1:00pm. Approximately 300-500 participants are expected. The Lukov March will begin at 5:30 p.m. at NDK. Approximately 1,500-2000 participants are expected. Road closures and an increased police presence within the designated march route is expected, which could lead to heavier than normal weekend traffic delays throughout the downtown Sofia area. Please note that the times of road closures and march routes can change.

“Location: The organizers and participants of the annual Lukov March intend to meet at the National Palace of Culture (NDK) and proceed to Ulitsa Trakai 1 (east of Nevski Cathedral). The “No to Nazis on our Streets” march, organized by ANTIFA Bulgaria, will begin at ‘Tsentralna Banya’ Park and proceed to the Sofia Municipality building.”

Honduras (Security threat level – 4): On 20 February 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa issued a Health Alert, which reads in part as follows:

“Location: Tegucigalpa, Honduras

“Event: Suggestions for Water Conservation — The city of Tegucigalpa continues to face an extreme water shortage. The Honduran water authority SANAA is currently providing water to residences once per week, but with continued drought may make delivery even less frequent with little or no notice (SANAA Delivery Schedule).”

Mexico (Security threat level – 4): On 20 February 2020, the U.S. Consulate General in Guadalajara issued a Security Alert that reads in part as follows:

“Event: Mexican authorities carried out a high-profile security operation today.

“We would like U.S. citizens to be aware that, following previous high-profile security operations, criminal groups operating in Jalisco have responded by taking retaliatory actions including an increase in anti-government rhetoric (banners and internet threats) and blockades inside the city and on interstate highways. On some occasions, these criminals have seized private vehicles and set them on fire. Traffic typically backs up behind these blockades, rendering the affected thoroughfares unusable.”

More information can be found at the following link .

South Korea (Security threat level – 2): On 21 February 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Seoul issued a Health Alert that reads in part as follows:

“As of 5:00pm on February 21, the Korea Center for Disease Control has confirmed 204 positive cases of COVID-19 in the Republic of Korea, including one death. This is a substantial increase over the past 48 hours largely due to a cluster of cases identified in the city of Daegu, which is located 148 miles south east of Seoul. Authorities have confirmed that community-based transmission is occurring in Korea. The U.S. Embassy in Seoul continues to closely monitor developments related to COVID-19 in the ROK.

“The Department of State also advises U.S. citizens to reconsider travel by cruise ship to or within East Asia and the Asia-Pacific Region. U.S. citizens planning to travel by cruise ship should be aware that, due to the current public health situation, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This is a dynamic situation and U.S. citizens traveling by ship may be impacted by travel restrictions affecting their itineraries or ability to disembark, or may be subject to quarantine procedures implemented by the host country authorities.”