Americas: US to allow sale of Venezuela’s US-based refiner Citgo to settle creditor claims

Sectors: all; energy; mining
Key Risks: sanctions; business risks

In the US, on 1 May reports emerged indicating that the Justice Department had decided to no longer block the court-ordered sale of PDV Holding’s shares. PDV Holding is the US-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm PDVSA. The move will allow creditors who have been seeking payment from the Venezuelan state to benefit from the sale of Citgo Petroleum Corp – PDV Holding’s US-based subsidiary and only asset. The US has protected Citgo from creditor claims since 2020. The change of tack may also facilitate a negotiated settlement that could allow creditors – including Canadian miner Crystallex International – to recover around US$3bln. Reports suggest that the court-supervised auction process could start as early as September. Citgo is Venezuela’s most precious foreign asset, with some accounts putting its value at US$13bln. Controversy and litigation are expected to protract.

Asia Pacific: Growing civil unrest prompts curfew in Papua New Guinea’s West New Britain

Sectors: all; retail
Key Risks: civil unrest; business disruptions; looting; vandalism

In Papua New Guinea, on 27 April authorities imposed a two-month curfew in West New Britain province to quell growing civil unrest prompted by the 23 April killing of 16 prisoners by police forces after an attempted break-out from Lakiemata prison. A ban on liquor and public assembly has also been imposed. The curfew came amid intensifying public furore after reports emerged claiming that the prisoners who failed in their escape attempt had surrendered themselves before being shot. Internal Security Minister Peter Tsiamalili Jr. has called for an investigation into the incident. Looting and raids on businesses and government properties – including the burning down of a police station – have since been reported in the provincial capital Kimbe. While most businesses have reopened, security conditions in the town are expected to remain tenuous in the coming weeks, with heightened risks of violent crime and civil unrest.

Eurasia: Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers hold talks in the US

Sectors:  all
Key risks: war on land

Armenia’s Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov began Washington-mediated talks in the US on 1 May. The talks are expected to last until 4 May and one of their main points is the re-opening of traffic through the Lachin Corridor – the only road that connects the breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh (NK) and Armenia. Baku set up a checkpoint on the corridor in late-April following a nearly five-months long blockade of the corridor by alleged Azerbaijani environmental activists. On 30 April Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev claimed that the checkpoint did not limit the movement of people and that some had already passed. Yerevan claims that the checkpoint violates the 2020 ceasefire agreement. The current talks take place after a lull in negotiations caused by the Lachin corridor blockade, with pressure to secure concrete results on the rise.

Europe: Serbia’s Vucic and Kosovo’s Kurti to meet in Brussels 

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability; civil unrest

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti are scheduled to meet in Brussels on 2 May to continue talks on implementing an EU-sponsored deal on the normalisation of ties between the two sides. Belgrade and Pristina verbally agreed on the deal’s implementation at an 18 March meeting in Ohrid, North Macedonia, but progress on its implementation has stalled. The leaders will discuss the establishment of the association of Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo – which Pristina pledged to create but which has yet to materialise. Pristina’s perceived backtracking on the establishment of the association prompted Ethnic Serbs to boycott local elections in northern Kosovo on 23 April. The two sides are also expected to confirm a declaration on missing persons at the upcoming meeting. Vucic stated that he expected nothing from the meeting and progress on the deal will likely be slow.

MENA: Knesset summer session opens amid judicial overhaul tensions in Israel

Sectors: all
Key Risks: civil unrest; political stability; political violence

In Israel, on 1 May the Knesset opened its summer session amid tensions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the opposition over the government’s planned judicial reforms. Confrontations between parliamentarians on the first day of the new session quickly escalated, with each side accusing the other of being divisive. On 29 April thousands of Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv for the seventeenth consecutive week to protest the judicial overhaul. On 27 February Netanyahu announced a pause in the legislative process addressing the reforms until May in a bid to restore calm after weeks of intense nationwide unrest. However, Netanyahu pledged to his coalition partners and supporters that he would push through the reforms despite parliamentary and popular opposition. Weekly demonstrations will likely intensify as the government gears up to reintroduce the reform bills in the Knesset.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Ethiopian authorities arrest 47 Amhara nationalists for political assassination

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability; war on land

In Ethiopia, on 1 May at least 47 Amhara nationalists were arrested by the Joint Security and Intelligence Task Force in an undisclosed location in Amhara region for their alleged role in the assassination of Girma Yeshitila, a senior official of the ruling Prosperity Party’s (PPs) Amhara branch. Amhara nationalists considered Yeshitila a “traitor” due to his relationship with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. There is growing resentment against Ahmed and his ruling PP following the decision to disband regional armies – including Amhara forces which fought alongside the federal government in the Tigray war. Authorities stated that those arrested planned to take control of the regional government by stoking instability in Amhara and to overthrow the federal government. Amhara nationalists lack the capability to do the latter, although further assassinations of senior Amhara officials do raise instability risks in the volatile region.