Venezuela: Nationwide – Unrest continues across country as political uncertainty in country
Protests continue to impact Venezuela as the political situation remains volatile and unchanged following violent unrest that occurred in Caracas and other urban centres on the anniversary of the 1958 civilian-military movement to dispose of the military junta. Over the past week, numerous governments have announced support for the opposition leader, and the self-declared president, Juan Guaido; including the majority of South America, the United States and Australia. While European countries have been slightly more cautious in their support, the European Union has called on de facto President Nicolas Maduro to call for immediate elections; a move he has refused. Maduro currently enjoys less widespread international support; however, notably, China and Russia continue to support him.
ADVICE: Continue to defer all non-essential travel to country; if in country limit non-essential movements and monitor latest alerts. Read our latest travel advisory for further information.
Europe: Brussels – The EU has agreed visa-free travel for UK citizens amidst a dispute over Gibraltar as Brexit future remains unclear
The EU has agreed to visa-free travel for all UK citizens, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March. UK travellers will be able to visit the Schengen area for short stay visits (maximum 90 days in any 180 days) without a visa. This measure is considered an act of reciprocity, as Britain had already confirmed EU citizens travelling to the UK for short stays would not require a visa.
However, as with much of the ongoing Brexit negotiations, parts of the regulation announcement have been met with criticism by UK officials over the description of Gibraltar as a “colony”. The terminology was reportedly an insertion at the request of Spain, which holds a long-standing sovereignty claim to the peninsula.
Additionally, British politicians have had their February recess cancelled as the next steps to the British exit from the European Union remain unclear. It is likely that more information about what Britain will do will be released in the coming week following meetings amongst politicians on both sides of the channel.
ADVICE: Travellers are advised to continue monitoring the Brexit situation as parliament in the United Kingdom remains far off from agreeing the deal that the British government agreed with Brussels and it remains unclear what exact implications a no-deal Brexit would have.
France: Nationwide – Further Yellow Vest (Gilets Jaunes) protests planned nationwide
Further Yellow Vest (Gilets Jaunes) protesters have announced their intention to hold demonstrations across France on Saturday 2 February. Paris, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Rouen, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Valence. The protests come as the French government plans to introduce measures to ban masks at rallies in an effort to tackle unrest. The French government has come under scrutiny for these measures and the use of “offensive” weapons.
Groups have recently been stating that the French police’s brutality cannot be denied after a number of injuries. France’s legal advisory body, the council of state, examined an urgent request by the French Human Rights League and the CGT trade union to ban police from using a form of rubber-bullet launcher in which ball-shaped projectiles are shot out of specialised handheld launchers. France’s rights groups have long warned they are dangerous and carry “disproportionate risk”.
ADVICE: Travellers in-country are advised to avoid all protests and monitor Solace Secure alerts for the latest updates. If driving, be aware that some roads may become blocked by protesters.
GLOBAL HEADLINES • 1 – 8 February 2019
US: Nationwide – Freezing temperatures result in snowfall across large parts of country; at least 12 deaths have been reported
Extremely cold temperature and heavy snowstorms have resulted in significant disruption across the United States. The Midwest and Northeast have seen the worst of the adverse weather. At least eight people have been killed as a result so the so-called “polar-vortex”. Significant flight delays have been reported at numerous airports; with Chicago-area airports seeing some of the worst of the disruption. Around 1600 flight cancellations were reported at O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport.
Some temperatures have been reported as low as -40C (-40F) with windchill and rail workers have resorted to setting railway junctions on fire to keep trains running in the Chicago area. Weather forecasters have warned that there is further bad weather to come. The storm system is likely to move south west toward the coast in coming days.
ADVICE: Travellers in the United States are advised to monitor weather reports and ensure that you wear adequate clothing when outdoors or driving. be aware that transport delays and cancellations are extremely likely. Ensure flights are operating and refrain from non-essential travel.
Lebanon: Beirut – Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has finally managed to form a new government after all factions agree a deal
Lebanese factions have agreed to form a new government after what has been nine-month pf political wrangling. The “government of national unity’s” first challenge will be to revive the country’s economy and look to cut national debt; which currently stands at 150 percent of GDP. The cabinet, which consists of 30 members, includes four women – which is a first for Lebanon.
Hezbollah were awarded two seats in the cabinet and their Sunni allies received one. Additionally, most likely as a bargaining chip, Hezbollah also chose the health minister; however, he is not a member of the Shia Islamist party/militant group. Mr Hariri, only 48 years old, is now a veteran of Lebanese politics; his father was killed by a bomb allegedly planted by men linked to Hezbollah.
Lebanon has long had a power-sharing political system between the different religious denominations. The number of seats in parliament is split between Christians and Muslims. Cabinet members must also present this balanced nature with the president, prime minister and speaker of the parliament each come from a specific religious background.
ADVICE: While the announcement of the new government ends months of uncertainty, be aware that protests are still possible. This is especially true should the new government find itself unable to tackle the current countries crisis.
Pakistan: Islamabad – Pakistan military successfully test fires a new short-range missile
On 31 January, the Pakistani army test-fired a new short-range missile – called Nasr; which reportedly has a strike range of about 70 km – as part of an Army Strategic Forces Command training exercise. The missile reportedly has “extreme inflight manoeuvrability, including the end flight manoeuvrability”. This will, allegedly, allow the missile to penetrate any currently available Ballistic missile defence system in the region.
There is little doubt that the Nasr missile has been developed with India in mind. The Indian military has denied, but allegedly possesses a military doctrine known as “Cold Start”. The doctrine is part of Indian defence planning and involves various branches of India’s conventional military conducting offensive operations as part of unified battlegroups. In theory, the doctrine intends to allow India’s conventional forces to perform holding attacks to prevent a nuclear retaliation from Pakistan in case of a conflict.
ADVICE: A conflict between India and Pakistan remains highly unlikely. Both countries have internal issues that require more attention than a full-scale conflict. Additionally, the possession of nuclear weapons and the mutually assured destruction theory also dampens any prospect of conflict.
Afghanistan: Kabul – Officials from the US and the Taliban have made progress during peace talks
Talks between the US and Taliban representatives concluded on 26 January after six days in which some significant progress was made towards the potential ending of the enduring conflict. However, some doubts have been raised over two pivotal points; an overall ceasefire and the withdrawal of foreign troops. Another strong point of concern has been the Taliban reluctance to negotiate directly with Afghan officials, raising doubts of the long-term endurance of any peace deal that could be made, and increasing the likelihood of continued domestic insecurity after the withdrawal foreign forces. Progress has been made towards the Taliban’s agreement in no longer permitting terror groups, such as ISIL or Al Qaeda, to find “safe havens” in Afghanistan. Both the US and Taliban officials have agreed to continue negotiations, although no date has been publicly announced as yet.
ADVICE: Despite the ongoing talks, attacks by the Taliban remain highly likely as do attack by other militant groups. Travellers in Kabul should remain up to date with the latest location-specific security information and regional developments by monitoring local media, Solace Global Alerts and liaising with in-country contacts. Travel security managers should ensure staff in-country understand what to do in the event if an escalation occurs and have clearly defined points of contact that they can ring in the event of an emergency.
Nigeria: Nationwide – Six sailors kidnapped in early January have been released
SIGNIFICANT DATES AND EVENTS
|Date||Country||Event||Potential for Violence|
|3 Feb||El Salvador||Presidential elections||HIGH|
|3 Feb||United States||Super Bowl||NEGLIGIBLE|
|7 Feb||Germany||Berlin Film Festival||NEGLIGIBLE|
|16 Feb||Nigeria||Presidential and Legislative elections||HIGH|
|24 Feb||Moldova||Legislative elections||MODERATE|
|1 Feb||Senegal||Presidential elections||MODERATE|
|28 Feb||Brazil||Salvador de Bahia Carnival||LOW|
|3 March||Estonia||Parliamentary Elections||NEGLIGIBLE|