Americas: Risk of violence high after Lasso invokes SoE amid rampant gang crime in Ecuador

Sectors: all
Key Risks: violent crime; gang-related violence; civil unrest

In Ecuador, the risk of violent confrontations between the security forces and criminal groups will remain high over the coming weeks after President Guillermo Lasso declared a 60-day state of emergency (SoE) in three of the country’s 24 provinces due to rising crime linked to the drug trade. The SoE, effective from 30 April, includes the deployment of 9,000 police and military personnel to Guayas, Manabi and Esmeraldas provinces, where certain neighbourhoods will also be placed under a night-time curfew. Despite heightened security force presence, a police officer was killed by unidentified gunmen in Guayaquil, Guayas, on the first day of the SoE. This is the second time in which Lasso resorts to emergency powers. He declared a similar SoE in October 2021 amid an uptick in homicides and violent crime. SoE-related operations could fuel violent incidents, including retaliatory attacks.

Asia Pacific: China pivots away from tech crackdown; Tanker owners strike in Sri Lanka

Sectors: all
Key Risks: business and economic risks; civil unrest; political instability

In China, the government announced more policy support for tech companies in a bid to boost economic growth. The announcement implies that policymakers are pivoting away from the tech crackdown that began in November 2020, which formed one of the biggest investment risks in the country. The decision could be viewed as an inexplicit admission that the crackdown had gone too far despite the private sector’s immense contribution to economic growth. That said, this is not the end of regulation in the tech sector although it does mean that regulatory changes are likely to happen in a much more predictable manner. In Sri Lanka, owners of fuel tankers staged a strike that further exacerbated the country’s fuel shortages. The strike coincided with anti-government protests in Colombo that called for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation. The turmoil will continue.

Eurasia: Opposition protests in Armenian capital, calls for resignation of PM Nikol Pashinyan

Sectors: all
Key risks: civil unrest; political instability; political uncertainty; war on land

In Armenia, thousands of protesters gathered in Yerevan’s city centre for three consecutive days to protest what they call the government’s concessions to Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh (NK). On 1 May thousands of people gathered in the capital’s central France Square, demanding Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to resign. On 2 May and 3 May protesters blocked several roads and streets in the capital. Police have reportedly detained over 300 participants. The protests came in response to Pashinyan’s agreement on 7 April to draft a bilateral treaty with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to resolve the dispute over NK based on Baku’s five-point proposal which includes a mutual recognition of each other’s territorial integrity. The protests are likely to continue and should talks on the treaty continue, they could further intensify.

Europe: European Commission to finalise sixth package of sanctions on Moscow

Sectors: oil and gas
Key Risks: sanctions; business and economic risks

The EU Commission is set to finalise its sixth package of sanctions on Russia which could include a long-discussed oil embargo. The Commission is expected to present the proposed package to EU ambassadors on 4 May who then need to unanimously agree on the proposal. Hungary and Slovakia, which receive 96 per cent and 58 per cent of their oil from Russia, respectively, could be offered an exception or a longer transition. Germany, which had previously appeared to be reluctant to approve such a measure, stated that it was willing to back the embargo. The discussions came after Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom halted natural gas flows to Poland and Bulgaria on 27 April, prompting concerns that other EU countries would experience similar issues. The recent developments increase the likelihood that the EU would agree on a phased-in oil embargo.

MENA: Clashes escalate between Iraqi Army and Sinjar Protection Units (YBS) in Sinjar district

Sectors: all; oil and gas
Key Risks: civil unrest; political violence; terrorism

In Iraq, violent clashes intensified between Iraqi Army (IA) forces and ethnically Yazidi Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) militants in the disputed Sinjar district, north-west of Mosul in northern Ninawa province on 2 May. IA personnel reportedly arrived with heavy equipment, warplanes and helicopters on 1 May, with heavy fighting erupting soon after in Dukri area and later spreading to Sinuni town. YBS has controlled much of Sinjar since 2014, when Islamic State militants were forced out with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) support. Tensions between Baghdad and the YBS have risen in recent weeks following the launch of Turkey’s anti-PKK Operation Claw-Lock in Dohuk province on 18 April. Ankara has previously launched sporadic air strikes against PKK-backed YBS positions. Clashes are likely to continue, displacing many civilians and potentially opening up room for a further southward expansion of Turkish anti-PKK operations.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Mine workers disrupt President Ramaphosa’s speech in South Africa

Sectors: all
Key Risks: civil unrest; business disruption

In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa was forced to abandon his Workers’ Day speech to trade union members after striking mine workers stormed the Royal Bafokeng Stadium’s field in Rustenburg city, North West province on 1 May. Ramaphosa’s security removed him from the stage after mine workers from Sibanye Stillwater Ltd. gold mine overpowered police during his speech to the Congress of South African Trade Union. Workers were reportedly angered after reports emerged Sibanye’s CEO Neal Froneman earned more than ZAR300m (US$19m) in 2021 in salary payments. Sibanye workers have been on strike since 9 March to demand a wage increase of ZAR1,000 (US$63) instead of ZAR850 (US$54). Further strike action is likely. The dispute also reflects challenges the ruling ANC party faces in its relationship trade unions who remain an influential constituency of the party.