Worldview Security Update – November 18, 2019
18-Nov-19

AMERICAS

Bolivia (Security threat level – 3): As of early on 18 November 2019, demonstrations in support of former President Evo Morales are ongoing in Bolivia. The latest reports indicate that demonstrators associated with the Council of Peasant Federations of the Yungas of La Paz (Cofecay) have gathered in the city of El Alto and plan to march to government headquarters in the nearby city of La Paz. Some coca-growing unions — which strongly support Morales — have called on interim President Jeanine Áñez to step down from office by late on 18 November. Protesters have blocked a number of major highways, which has disrupted transportation and led to shortages of basic goods, such as food and fuel, in La Paz and other urban centers in the country. Demonstrators continue to block roads near the state-owned Senkata gas plant in the city of El Alto, while supporters of former President Evo Morales have installed roadblocks at three points along the Santa Cruz-Trinidad highway in the municipality of Ascención de Guarayos in northeastern Bolivia. Due to the shortage of basic essentials, there were long queues of locals attempting to stockpile supplies outside grocery stores and gas stations in La Paz on 17 November. The likelihood of violence during demonstrations is currently very high.

Anti-government protest actions demanding the resignation of Áñez continued over the weekend of 16-17 November. In a notable incident on 16 November, hundreds of supporters of former President Morales blocked the entrance to the Senkata terminal, which supplies fuel to La Paz. Police officers fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. In Cochabamba, pro-Morales demonstrators ruptured the Carrasco Cochabamba (GCC) pipeline, disrupting fuel supplies to Cochabamba; repairs are underway and will take approximately seven days to be completed.

Additionally, on 15 November, security forces opened fire on coca growers along the Huayllani Bridge in the town of Sacaba, located near Cochabamba, after protesters attempted to cross a military checkpoint and enter the city. At least nine people were killed and 100 others were injured during the violence. Authorities announced that earlier in the day, police officers seized firearms, explosives and improvised bazookas from demonstrators. Protests have since occurred on a daily basis in Cochabamba and along the road connecting the city to Sacaba; however, security personnel have refrained from using live ammunition.

In a related development on 17 November, the Bolivian government formed a special division of the Prosecutor’s Office, which will begin detaining individuals associated with former President Morales’ Movement for Socialism (MAS) party on charges of sedition. The security situation is likely to deteriorate further as a result of the escalating tension between the transitional government and supporters of Morales. An increase in the scale and intensity of protest actions is likely in the coming days.

Chile (Security threat level – 2): On 18 November 2019, small-scale anti-government demonstrations are ongoing in Chile. There are reports of traffic disruptions on Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins and near the Las Rejas and Irarrázaval metro stations in Santiago due to roadblocks. Additionally, students have blocked a road in the city of Puerto Montt to demand the resumption of classes.

Protests occurred in Santiago and other locations in Chile over the weekend of 16-17 November. At least 16 people — including 11 police officers — were injured overnight on 16-17 November in sporadic clashes across the country, according to a government report. In addition, four police stations in the Santiago Metropolitan Region were vandalized and the Socialist Party headquarters in the city of Valdivía, as well as a Banco Estado branch in El Bosque commune, were set on fire. Incidents of vandalism and looting also occurred elsewhere in the country, in addition to Santiago and Valdivía.

On 16 November, protesters gathered in Santiago’s Plaza Italia for a peaceful protest to demand justice for a protester who died of cardiac arrest amid a protest at the same venue on 15 November. Police officers fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, but there were no reports of injuries or arrests. Protesters later regathered at the same venue and concluded the demonstration peacefully. Meanwhile, thousands of protesters peacefully gathered in the Plaza de la Matte in the neighboring city of Puente Alto.

During the clashes that occurred in Santiago’s Plaza Italia on 15 November, at least 26 protesters were injured and police officers arrested an unspecified number of participants. Following the 15 November agreement between the ruling and opposition parties to start the process of drafting a new constitution, the scale and intensity of demonstrations have relatively declined; however, unrest is unlikely to fully subside in the near term.

ASIA

China (Security threat level – 3): As of late on 18 November 2019, violent anti-government protests are ongoing in Hong Kong, primarily on the Kowloon Peninsula in the vicinity of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) campus. As of most recent reports, demonstrators have blocked Mody Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. Clashes between protesters and police officers are occurring at the intersection of Observatory Road and Chatham Road South in Tsim Sha Tsui and at the intersection of Nathan and Jordan Roads in Yau Ma Tei, with police officers firing tear gas and protesters throwing Molotov cocktails at the officers. Additionally, demonstrators are marching toward Science Museum Road via Salisbury Road in an attempt to reach the PolyU campus. Riot police have cordoned off the PolyU campus, and are arresting protesters attempting to leave. Anecdotal reports indicate that many of the remaining protesters are planning to leave the campus, but are unable to depart due to the police presence. In a related development on the same day, Hong Kong’s High Court declared the emergency law banning face masks unconstitutional.

Police officers and protesters engaged in clashes in Hong Hum, Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui and around the PolyU campus over the weekend of 16-17 November. Riot police deployed tear gas, plus a number of water cannons, and fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters gathered along Austin Road and Chatham Road South adjacent to the university as well as along Jordan and Nathan Roads in Tsim Sha Tsui. Protesters threw Molotov cocktails, bricks and other projectiles at security forces and police vehicles advancing toward PolyU across the Cross Harbor Tunnel flyover and elsewhere. Since the early hours of 18 November, riot police officers have attempted to enter the PolyU campus to clear the remaining demonstrators, as firefighters worked to contain a large fire near the main entrance.

On the evening of 17 November, protesters withdrew onto the university grounds and clashed with riot police during an extended standoff. Authorities surrounding the campus issued an evacuation order for the grounds and arrested dozens of demonstrators attempting to comply. At least one live round was fired into the air to warn protesters to surrender. Authorities warned that live fire may be used if protesters continue to refuse police orders.

Meanwhile, spontaneous demonstrations broke out across Hong Hum, Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui as protesters attempted to draw attention away from the university to relieve those barricaded inside. Riot police continued to deploy tear gas and water cannons and fire rubber bullets throughout Kowloon to disperse demonstrators setting fires and throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at police lines. At least one police officer was injured after being hit in the leg with an arrow near PolyU on 17 November.

Philippines (Security threat level – 4): Tropical Storm Kalmaegi — locally known as Ramon — strengthened to become a typhoon on 18 November 2019. According to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), as of 0900 UTC, Kalmaegi was located approximately 455 km (280 mi) north-northwest of Manila, and was moving northwest at 9 kph (6 mph). At that time, Kalmaegi was generating maximum sustained winds of 120 kph with gusts of up to 148 kph. Current forecasts suggest that the typhoon will shift southwest and make landfall in northern Cagayan province by 19 November before exiting into the South China Sea near Vigan City on the same day. Authorities have warned of moderate to intermittent heavy rainfall in the affected areas, which could cause landslides. Authorities have evacuated approximately 100 people from the Cagayan Valley Region due to potential hazards associated with the typhoon.

EUROPE

France (Security threat level – 3): On 16 November 2019, thousands of protesters gathered in Bordeaux, Paris, Toulouse and elsewhere across France to mark the one-year anniversary of the "yellow vest" protest movement. Riot police deployed tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters attempting to march from the Porte de Champerret in northwestern Paris southeast toward Gare d’Austerlitz; additional clashes occurred near the Place d’Italie in the south as demonstrators threw stones at riot police and set fire to barricades and a municipal government vehicle. Officials in Paris closed a number of metro rail stations and additional police forces deployed around the Champs-Élysées and outside government buildings. Police officers arrested at least 147 people across the city by late afternoon. Elsewhere in France, smaller-scale clashes between police officers and protesters occurred in the cities of Bordeaux, Nantes and Lyon.

Georgia (Security threat level – 3): On 18 November 2019, riot police officers deployed tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters near the parliament building and along Rustaveli Avenue in central Tbilisi; minor clashes between officers and demonstrators have been ongoing at the site. Protesters blocked lawmakers from entering the building and were also blocking traffic along Rustaveli Avenue. Officers have detained several protesters and there have been unconfirmed reports of injuries, although an exact count is not yet available. Thousands of protesters had gathered outside the parliament building for a fourth consecutive day to protest lawmakers’ refusal to pass electoral reform legislation.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Iran (Security threat level – 3): As of 18 November 2019, reports indicate that a full internet blackout is underway across Iran due to ongoing large-scale anti-government protests across the country. Anti-government protesters and police officers are continuing to clash in several towns and cities in Iran, including in the capital Tehran. At least one person has been killed and authorities have arrested at least 1,000 people since the protests began on 15 November over a 50% increase in fuel prices.

There were reports of widespread protests across the country, including in Tehran and the city of Shiraz — located approximately 940 km (580 mi) south of Tehran — over the weekend of 16-17 November. In Shahriar and Rabat Karim, provincial officials closed schools in an effort to quell demonstrations. On 16 November, protesters in Tehran set fire to buildings and perpetrated riots. Police officers used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Meanwhile, protests continued to spread to several other cities throughout the country, including Chahardangeh, Shahriar and Esllamshahr. In Andishe, protesters took control of a Basij militia headquarters. The government announced that Iranian security forces would use harsher tactics to quell demonstrators if the protests continued to escalate.

Protests initially broke out on 15 November, when demonstrators in the southwestern province of Ahwaz gathered on the streets after abandoning their cars. Separately, clashes also broke out in Sirjan — located approximately 800 km south of Tehran — after protesters attempted to set fire to an oil depot. Police officers fired tear gas at protesters, but there were no reports of injuries.

Iraq (Security threat level – 5): On 16 November 2019, unidentified militants detonated a car bomb on Jumhuriya Bridge, located near Tahrir Square in downtown Baghdad. The bombing killed two protesters and injured 10 others. Tahrir Square is the epicenter of the ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad, and a large number of protesters were in the area at the time of the blast. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The attack appears to have targeted demonstrators, who have been participating in anti-government protests since October 2019. The likely perpetrator of the attack is unclear; while the Islamic State militant group remains capable of conducting such attacks, Iran-linked militants also have a history of perpetrating such attacks and have generally opposed the protests.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Austria (Security threat level – 2): On 18 November 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Austria, which reads in part as follows: “Due to heavy rain and snowfall in Alpine areas over the past few days there have been many road closures across the country, particularly in the provinces of Tyrol, Salzburg and Carinthia. For more details in German you should check the ÖAMTC website . Local authorities are monitoring the risk of mudslides and avalanches and will close / open roads accordingly. You should follow the instructions of local authorities if you are in an affected area.”

Mexico (Security threat level – 4): On 17 November 2019, the U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows:

"The Consulate continues to monitor the security situation in the city of Nuevo Laredo following violence between Mexican authorities and criminal organizations that started on November 15.

"Additional restrictions on movement and an early curfew imposed on U.S. government personnel on November 16 have been lifted. U.S. government personnel remain subject to normal movement and curfew restrictions in Nuevo Laredo as described in the current Mexico Travel Advisory."