Worldview Security Update – October 22, 2019
22-Oct-19

AMERICAS

Bolivia (Security threat level – 3) : On 21 October 2019, violent protests broke out in Bolivia following the announcement of preliminary results of the presidential election that took place the previous day. In La Paz, thousands of people gathered outside a hotel where officials of the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) had gathered to tally votes. Police officers deployed tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd. In the southern cities of Sucre and Potosi, protesters set electoral tribunal offices on fire. Meanwhile, in Tarija, protesters vandalized electoral tribunal offices and set ablaze ballot boxes. The TSE had initially stopped reporting the results on 20 October when current President Evo Morales had a 6% lead against former President Carlos Mesa, with approximately 84% of the ballots counted. At that time, the Organization of American States (OAS) observer mission reported that Morales had won 45.3% of vote, while Mesa had 38.2%. The abrupt halting of the vote count caused unrest that spiraled into violent protests on 21 October, when the OAS updated its count to show that Morales had won 46.85% of the vote compared with Mesa’s 36.73%, with nearly 95% of the votes counted. Bolivian law requires a 10-percentage point advantage in order to avoid a runoff election.

As of the latest count, Morales has 46.4% of the vote and Mesa has 37.07%, with approximately 95% of the votes counted. Mesa has stated that he will not accept the results if Morales secures outright victory and his supporters are likely to organize protests against the alleged vote fraud. Therefore, the probability of post-election unrest in Bolivia currently remains high. Individuals and entities operating in the country should closely monitor related developments.

Chile (Security threat level – 2): Violent protests over rising cost of living expenses continued throughout Chile overnight on 21-22 October 2019. At least two people were killed during the protests overnight, including one in the city of Curicó; an additional two people were injured during a shooting in the city. Despite the continued unrest, transportation services in Santiago are starting to resume on the morning of 22 October following the end of curfew; authorities plan to operate at least one Metro line in the city on 22 October. However, Latam Airlines has canceled at least 55 flights scheduled to operate through Santiago’s Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCEL/SCL) on 22 October. President Sebastián Piñera has announced plans to meet with different groups, including the opposition, later on 22 October in an attempt to resolve the ongoing unrest. The Chilean Senate has approved the cancellation of a price hike on subway tickets that initially sparked the demonstrations. However, civic groups, including student and labor unions, have called for a countrywide general strike on 23 October.

On 21 October thousands of demonstrators gathered in central Santiago. Military personnel fired warning shots into the air to disperse a large crowd that had gathered near Santiago’s Plaza Italia; however, there were no clashes between protesters and military personnel. Separately, protesters erected burning barricades in the Providencia area of Santiago. Later in the evening hours, security forces deployed tear gas to disperse protesters near Escuela Militar metro station in Santiago. Elsewhere in Chile, police officers and protesters clashed in the city center in Antofagasta. In Temuco, the Regional Hospital Emergency Service closed its doors after tear gas — used to disperse nearby protesters — began affecting hospitalized patients. In Valparaíso, a fire that broke out at a pharmacy affected nearby buildings; it was not clear if the blaze was a result of an arson attack. Protesters also gathered elsewhere in the country, including in Talcahuano commune’s Perales Bridge, located in the Bío Bío region.

In a related development, authorities extended the states of emergency to the cities of Osorno and Puerto Montt on the evening of 22 October. Thus far, there have been a total of 15 fatalities since the protests turned violent and intensified on 18 October.

AUSTRALASIA

New Zealand (Security threat level – 1): At approximately 1300 local time (0000 UTC) on 22 October 2019, a large-scale fire broke out on the roof of the SkyCity Convention Center, a construction project located in Auckland’s central business district. Workers at the site evacuated immediately and authorities ordered thousands of people to evacuate the SkyCity Auckland area, including the nearby Sky Tower, casino, all SkyCity hotels, restaurants and corporate offices. Authorities also blockaded nearby roads and advised people to avoid the area. Vehicular traffic in the city center experienced significant disruptions due to the presence of emergency crews as well as the blocked roads. At least 30 fire trucks and dozens of firefighters deployed to fight the blaze, and all available fire units in Auckland, as well as units from Hamilton, were redirected to assist. Firefighters continue to battle the blaze overnight on 22-23 October and have refocused their efforts on preventing it from spreading further. There were no reports of casualties and the cause of the fire remains unknown.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Lebanon (Security threat level – 4): As of 22 October 2019, a smaller number of anti-government protesters remain in the capital Beirut, as well as in the northern city of Tripoli, than in previous days of demonstrations. Security forces were working to disperse protesters who continued to block several roads across Beirut, including portions of Ghazir Highway; however, there have been no reports of significant clashes between protesters and security personnel on 22 October. Although some daily routine activities are resuming, many schools, banks and other businesses in Beirut remain closed.

In a related development, on 21 October Prime Minister Saad Hariri held an emergency Cabinet meeting and passed a series of economic reforms aimed at addressing corruption and curbing the ongoing nationwide protests that began on 17 October.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Albania (Security threat level – 3): On 21 October 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Tirana issued a Demonstration Alert, which reads in part as follows:

“Location: Tirana, Albania along the Tirana Ring Road (Unaza e Madhe).

“Event: Demonstrations continue along the Ring Road (Unaza e Madhe) and other areas of the city related to the planned Ring Road expansion. The demonstration times have changed and are scheduled to take place daily from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.

“U.S. Embassy personnel and family members are urged to monitor local media and to avoid the Tirana Ring Road and other areas around the city if there is information that a demonstration is imminent or ongoing in the area.”

Egypt (Security threat level – 4): On 22 October 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Egypt, which reads in part as follows: “Following the crash of a St Petersburg-bound flight in North Sinai in October 2015, direct flights between the UK and Sharm el Sheikh were suspended. The UK government has worked with Egyptian authorities to enable flights to resume, and on 22 October 2019 the restrictions were lifted . You should check with your airline or tour operator for information on services." 

Guinea (Security threat level – 4): On 22 October 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued an update to its travel advisory for Guinea, which reads in part as follows: "Further demonstrations have been announced by the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) for Wednesday 23 October and Thursday 24 October in Conakry and countrywide. Recent demonstrations across Conakry and in other towns throughout Guinea have led to significant travel disruption and a number of violent incidents, including deaths. You should remain vigilant, stay clear of areas where demonstrators are gathering and monitor local media."

Rwanda (Security threat level – 3): On 21 October 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Kigali issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows:

“Event: The Rwanda National Police informed the public of an October 19 grenade attack near the southwestern city of Kamembe along Rwanda’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Four people suffered injuries following the attack.

“While there has been no claim of responsibility, armed groups operate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) close to the Rwandan border. There is a risk of cross-border incursions and security incidents such as this one.”