Americas: Protests demanding President Benitez step down set to continue in Paraguay
Key Risks: violent unrest; political instability
In Paraguay, further disruptive unrest demanding President Mario Abdo Benitez step down over the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic should be expected over the coming days. On 7 March at least eight people were arrested in the third consecutive day of violent protests in the capital Asuncion. Police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse rock-hurling protesters. Four cabinet ministers have been replaced since 5 March, when one protester was killed and over 20 were injured. Protesters and opposition lawmakers have called for President Benitez’s impeachment over the health crisis and over alleged corruption in public procurement and spending. So far, Benitez appears to have enough support in Congress to avoid potential impeachment proceedings but political instability risks further increasing, particularly should pandemic-related grievances not be immediately addressed.
Asia Pacific: Nine activists killed by security forces in the Philippines
Key Risks: political violence
In the Philippines, nine activists from the left-leaning human rights organisation Karapatan were killed by the security forces during simultaneous raids in the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and metro Manila. Six were also arrested while nine others reportedly escaped. President Rodrigo Duterte and the military have accused Karapatan of having ties to the country’s communist insurgency, although the group has denied any involvement. The incident raised alarms amid Manila’s deteriorating human rights record. President Duterte is facing charges of crimes against humanity as he publicly condoned extrajudicial killing during his war on drugs during which more than 8,000 have been killed. There has also been an uptick in crackdowns against civil rights activists following the inception of Anti-Terror Law in 2020, a trend that is likely to continue until the presidential election in May 2022.
Eurasia: New US plans for Afghan talks; Nord Stream 2 construction and Georgia turmoil continue
Key Risks: civil war; political instability; civil unrest; oil & gas
The US recently outlined plans to revitalise Afghanistan’s stalled peace process, calling for an intra-Afghan conference in Turkey, UN-led discussions involving the US, China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran and India and a fresh ‘reduction in violence’. As the May deadline for international troop withdrawal looms, it is unclear whether either of the Afghan parties are interested in an arrangement which would likely end international military support for the government and see the Taliban share power. Meanwhile, US Senator Ted Cruz’s hold on confirming the new CIA Director reflects a similar last-minute bid by Congress to pressure the Biden administration into applying sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, though it alone is unlikely to impact policy. Political turmoil in Georgia is likely to continue in parliament and on the streets, with protests scheduled in Tbilisi this week.
Europe: Hungary’s Fidesz leaves EU parliament bloc; German lawmakers resign over procurement scandal
Key Risks: political stability
On 3 March Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party announced it had quit the European People’s party group (EPP) in the European parliament. The EPP consists of centre-right and right-wing parties from EU member states, although Fidesz has regularly been at odds with other members, particularly Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The move could weaken Budapest’s influence in the parliament. Such influence has been at times destabilising, most recently by delaying a vote on the EU’s COVID-19 recovery fund. Meanwhile, in Germany two lawmakers from the CDU-led bloc resigned following allegations that they had profited from government deals to procure face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The scandal will be the first major test for new CDU leader Armin Laschet, who was elected leader in January and faces a contest to succeed fellow CDU member Angel Merkel as Chancellor in elections in September.
MENA: Saudi-led Arab Coalition restart strikes on Yemen’s Sana’a after Aramco attacks
Key Risks: political risks; political instability; sanctions; oil & gas
The Saudi Arabia-led Arab Coalition launched a new air force operation against Yemen’s Huthi rebels shortly after the Huthis claimed large scale missile and drone attacks against Saudi Aramco facilities on 7 March. The attacks, which came via air and sea, targeted Ras Tanurah, the kingdom’s largest offshore oil rigs, as well as the strategic oil hub Dammam both to the east and on the Red Sea coast, Asir and Jizan. While the attacks were intercepted and no damage was reported, recent escalations against Saudi Arabia, some of which have permeated the kingdom’s defenses, raise concerns over oil supply and protection. The 7 March strikes caused a temporary halt in output which pushed oil prices to over US$70pb. In Yemen, reports emerged claiming that Attan and al-Nahda neighbourhoods in Sana’a were targeted and that Bajil in Hudaidah province was also targeted. Further escalation is likely.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Five people killed amid continued nationwide violent unrest in Senegal
Key Risks: civil unrest; political violence
In Senegal, at least five people were killed in violent clashes between security forces and protesters in the capital Dakar and in Diaobe city between 3 and 5 March. Schools were shut until 15 March following the violence. Protesters burned a military police station and ransacked several government buildings in Diaobe. Country-wide unrest erupted after leading opposition figure Ousmane Sonko, of the Pastef party, was arrested on charges of disturbing public order. In February hundreds of opposition supporters clashed with security forces when Sonko’s adherents followed his motorcade as he travelled to court in Dakar to face separate sexual assault allegations in court, a charge he claims is politically motivated to prevent his candidacy in the 2024 elections. The opposition Movement to Defend Democracy (M2D) called for three days of protest. Further violent clashes between security forces and protesters are expected.