Worldview Security Update – October 19, 2020
19-Oct-20

AMERICAS

Canada / Mexico / United States (Security threat levels – 2 / 4 / 2): On the morning of 19 October 2020, the acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security declared that U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed to nonessential travel through 21 November in a continued effort to stem the spread of COVID-19. At present, individuals involved in cross-border trade and transport are exempt, as are other “essential” personnel — including health care staff and emergency officials — and individuals who transit the border daily for work or to obtain basic necessities, such as food or medicine. The acting secretary also stated that the U.S. government is working with the Canadian and Mexican governments to ease the existing restrictions in the future. The border restrictions, which do not apply to air travel, were initially enacted on 21 March and had been set to expire on 21 October after multiple renewals on a monthly basis.

Chile (Security threat level – 2): On 18 October 2020, thousands of demonstrators gathered across the capital Santiago to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of nationwide anti-government protests. Protesters mainly gathered at the Plaza de Armas and Plaza Boquedano in central Santiago, but demonstrations occurred across the metropolitan area. Isolated clashes between groups of protesters and riot police officers occurred in the evening. At least 15 metro stations were temporarily closed in Santiago, and authorities deployed tear gas and water cannons in several skirmishes. In one instance, approximately 300 demonstrators threw fireworks, Molotov cocktails and stones at a police station in Puente Alto before dispersing as officers prepared to intervene. In addition, protesters erected barricades and set fires across a number of roadways, damaging property and looting nearby businesses. Looters reportedly set a fire in the San Francisco de Borja Church, located near Plaza Boquedano, but emergency responders contained the blaze and minimized the damage; authorities arrested at least six people in connection with starting the fire.

Analyst Comment: Demonstrations are likely to continue ahead of the national plebiscite — which is slated to occur on 25 October — on whether to rewrite the Chilean constitution. While the majority of protesters will likely gather peacefully, there is potential for isolated instances of violence. Those with interests and personnel in Santiago and elsewhere in Chile should keep abreast of local developments and prepare contingencies in the event of widespread unrest.

Chile / Dominican Republic (Security threat levels – 2 / 3): On 19 October 2020, Chilean authorities partially relaxed quarantine measures. Localities at or above phase two of the government’s five-step COVID-19 quarantine system are allowed to reopen businesses such as theaters, as well as resume some religious activities, with social distancing and occupancy limits in place. Additionally, travelers will now be eligible to enter Chile — since March 2020 only citizens and permanent residents had been allowed to enter the country — and may be exempt from a mandatory 14-day quarantine period with proof of a negative result on a COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival. The test must be taken at an authorized laboratory in the country of departure.

In the Dominican Republic, President Luis Abinader extended on 17 October a nationwide nightly curfew until 12 November. A curfew is in effect from 2100-0500 local time (0100-0900 UTC) Monday to Friday and 1900-0500 local time on Saturday, Sunday and holidays. The mandate to use face masks in public and private spaces remains in effect.

Costa Rica (Security threat level – 3): Several education unions have called for a nationwide strike on 19 October 2020. Protests are expected to occur in several areas of Costa Rica, with the largest demonstrations taking place in the capital San José. Protesters have gathered in San José near the León Cortés station and La Sabana park. Demonstrators on foot and riding in vehicles then plan to proceed toward the Legislative Assembly. Additional protests are planned for the following areas: the cities of Limonal, Nicoya and Santa Cruz in Guanacaste province; the cities of Limón Centro, Guápiles, Bataán and Siquirres in Limón province; and the cities of Buenos Aires and Puntarenas in Puntarenas province. Travelers in Costa Rica should prepare for significant transit disruptions.

ASIA

Thailand (Security threat level – 3): On the evening of 19 October 2020, thousands of anti-government protesters gathered near Kaset intersection, located in the northern part of the capital Bangkok. Protesters also gathered elsewhere in the northern Bangkok suburbs, including at the Ministry of Public Health MRT station and the Bangkok Remand Prison. Over the past weekend, anti-government protests, which started in Bangkok on 13 October, spread to other cities in Thailand. On 18 October thousands of demonstrators gathered at Asok Intersection and the Victory Monument — Bangkok’s principal rally locations — and in at least 20 other cities and districts, including the Bang Yai district, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima and Rangsit. Authorities in Bangkok temporarily closed a number of skytrain and underground rail stations, causing traffic disruptions throughout the city. The demonstrations in Bangkok and elsewhere concluded peacefully, although they defied an emergency decree that bans public gatherings of more than five people in Bangkok. The government implemented the decree on 15 October in an effort to end the protests. Meanwhile, police officials ordered national broadcasting authorities to shut down four media outlets and the Facebook page of the opposition Free Youth movement on national security grounds. In response, several groups have shifted their operations to different platforms, such as the encrypted messaging service Telegram. Demonstrators — who are mostly young students — demand the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, amendments to the constitution and reform of the country’s monarchy.

EUROPE

Europe: On 16 October 2020, authorities in Belgium announced additional coronavirus-related restrictions, including a countrywide nightly curfew, due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Beginning on 19 October, a nightly curfew will be in place from 0000 to 0500 local time (2200 to 0300 UTC). Even outside of curfew hours, the number of people whom residents can meet with other than members of the same household has been reduced to one person. All restaurants and bars must close until at least 16 November and residents must telecommute when possible. Alcohol sales are prohibited after 2000 local time.

In the Czech Republic, security forces deployed tear gas and water cannons against several thousand anti-lockdown protesters who had gathered in the capital Prague on 18 October. The protesters demanded the resignation of the country’s health minister and violently clashed with security forces. Reports indicate that 20 police officers and nine demonstrators were injured. Security forces arrested 50 protesters.

In Slovakia, on 17 October riot police deployed tear gas and water cannons to disperse approximately 1,000 demonstrators gathered near the Presidential Palace in the Old Town area of Bratislava to protest against COVID-19 restrictions. Demonstrators threw bottles, fireworks, stones and other projectiles at police lines and launched flares over the security barrier toward the palace, prompting authorities to intervene and disperse them. A number of people were injured in the clashes, including approximately 20 police officers. Authorities stated that they had arrested approximately 50 people armed with homemade weapons, including firearms, ahead of the rally. The protest occurred despite existing restrictions on public gatherings of more than six people.

In Slovenia, on 19 October authorities announced plans to introduce a nationwide curfew from 2100 to 0600 local time (1900-0400 UTC) as of 20 October, and until further notice, as COVID-19 infections surge in the country. In addition, nonessential movement between regions will be restricted, and public gatherings will be limited to no more than six people. Additional restrictions may be imposed with little advance notice.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Côte d’Ivoire (Security threat level – 4): On 16-17 October 2020, clashes broke out between opposing ethnic groups ahead of the presidential election, which is slated to occur on 31 October. In Bongouanou, a stronghold for opposition candidate and former Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan, the local Agni ethnic group clashed with individuals from the Dioula group, a pro-government ethnic group from northern Côte d’Ivoire. Meanwhile, several residences and shops were looted and set on fire. At least two individuals were killed in the clashes, including one from each group.

Analyst Comment: Approximately 15 people were killed during similar intercommunal conflicts during August and September. Clashes began after incumbent President Alassane Ouattara announced his bid for a third term in the upcoming election, despite a constitutional two-term limit. Many prospective candidates were barred from contesting the election, and two opposition candidates — who had obtained approval to participate in the election — have since called on their supporters to boycott the election. Meanwhile, opposition leaders have continued to call for “civil disobedience” to protest Ouattara’s candidacy.

Nigeria (Security threat level – 5): As of the afternoon hours of 19 October 2020, protesters have gathered in cities across Nigeria to continue demonstrations against alleged police brutality. In Abuja, police officers fired tear gas at protesters blocking Airport Road, a key thoroughfare in the city. Meanwhile, the governor of Edo state declared a curfew beginning at 1600 local time (1500 UTC) until further notice, citing “incidents of vandalism and attacks” perpetrated by individuals taking advantage of the protests. The decision followed violent protests during the past weekend in Edo state and major cities across Nigeria, including Abuja, Benin City, Lagos, and Osogbo. There were also reports of a jailbreak on 19 October in Benin City — with over 200 inmates escaping — which was purportedly facilitated by the ongoing demonstrations. On 18 October protesters occupied Abuja’s central bank and were later targeted by armed assailants.

Analyst Comment: Widespread protests are likely to continue for the foreseeable future, despite the government’s decision to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), activities of which prompted the anti-police brutality protests, on 11 October. Thus far, at least 15 individuals — including two police officers — have died and dozens have been injured during the ongoing protests, which initially broke out on 7 October. On 18 October Nigeria’s police inspector general announced that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will train a new tactical force — the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit — which will replace SARS. The ICRC is expected to help train police forces on several issues, including humanitarian laws, police conduct in conflict, and human rights during the use of force, arrest and detention.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Brazil (Security threat level – 3): On 16 October 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia issued a Health Alert regarding the extension of entry restrictions in Brazil, which reads in part as follows: “Effective October 14, Brazil extended the restrictions on entry of foreigners by land (unless for transit) and sea, through at least November 12. The entry of foreign visitors traveling by air for a short stay of up to 90 days is currently permitted.”

"Effective October 2, the Government of Brazil no longer requires foreign travelers to present proof of health insurance valid in Brazil in order to enter. While no longer a requirement, the U.S. Department of State continues to recommend that all travelers purchase insurance before departing the United States. The U.S. government does not provide health insurance for U.S. citizens overseas and does not pay medical bills. Commercial flights between the United States and Brazil operate on a regular basis. Although Brazil has opened its borders to visitors traveling by air, U.S. citizens considering international travel should be aware that Brazil remains at a Level 4 Travel Advisory (Do Not Travel) and continues to experience high daily case numbers of COVID-19."

The full text of the alert is available here .

Côte d’Ivoire (Security threat level – 4): On 19 October 2020, the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) issued updated travel advice regarding the political situation in the lead-up to the presidential election, which reads in part as follows:

"There have been demonstrations, road blocks and protests across Côte d’Ivoire since the start of the election campaign on 15 October and ahead of the Presidential election on 31 October. Trees have been used to block roads, protesters are manning the road blocks and may obstruct passage.

"The student union FESCI called a 72 hour strike against certain school fees from 19 October. Many schools are closed and students are out on the streets. The protests are causing road closures and demonstrations in Abidjan. There have been gatherings and incidents in Adjame, Abobo and Riveria 2 districts of Abidjan. Police are using tear gas to disperse crowds. Protesters may seek to obstruct access in the vicinity of schools.

"Curfews may be put in place across the country at short notice in response to protests. Further protests are likely in the run up to the Presidential election, with the potential for violence. You should exercise caution and avoid large political rallies and gatherings, areas of demonstrations, and protests. Crowds can gather quickly, road blocks are common during demonstrations. In the event of unrest, monitor local media and follow instructions and announcements from the local authorities."