Americas: Renewed protests likely as MS party’s legal immunity set to expire in Guatemala

Sectors: all; cargo transport
Key Risks: political instability; civil unrest; political violence; violent clashes

In Guatemala, on 31 October the immunity from legal cases granted to President-elect Bernardo Arevalo’s Seed Movement (MS) party will expire. Any lawsuits filed against MS after 31 October would likely lead to a significant escalation of ongoing disruptive nationwide protests. Protesters – led by indigenous and agricultural groups – have been calling for an orderly transition of power and for the resignation of Attorney General Consuelo Porras since the start of October. Roadblocks remain in place in the capital Guatemala City and along the Pan-American highway in Solola and Quiche departments. Demonstrations against the protests and related disruptions – which have often involved violent clashes in recent weeks – will likely intensify should unrest escalate. The risk of disruptive protests with a potential to turn violent will remain heightened at least until Arevalo takes office on 14 January 2024.

Asia Pacific: Violent clashes roil Dhaka ahead of Bangladesh’s January 2024 general election

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability; civil unrest; political violence; violent clashes

In Bangladesh, on 28 October two people – including one police officer – were killed and hundreds of others – including at least three journalists – were injured in clashes during political rallies by the ruling Awami League (AL) and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party across the capital Dhaka. Around 125,000 protesters participated in the rallies, which were organised to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the restoration of the neutral caretaker government system ahead of the January 2024 general election. The BNP accused the government of disrupting their rallies through “planned violence and armed attacks”, including the arrest of some 2,000 BNP members in the preceding week. BNP has since called for a nationwide strike in response to the government crackdown. Further protests and violent clashes are likely.

Eurasia: Kazakhstan to nationalise ArcelorMittal subsidiary as 46 killed in Kostenko coal mine fire

Sectors: all; steel; mining
Key Risks: nationalisation; workplace deadly accidents

In Kazakhstan, on 28 September authorities confirmed they had signed a preliminary deal to nationalise the world’s second-largest steel producer ArcelorMittal’s local subsidiary ArcelorMittal Temirtau (AMT). The announcement came as 46 miners were killed in an accidental fire at an AMT-operated coal mine in Kostenko, Qaraghandy region – the deadliest in Astana’s post-independence history. AMT operates the largest steel plant in the country and 15 coal and iron ore mines. AMT’s nationalisation comes amid growing discontent with its activities. Five AMT workers were killed in a fire in August and another five in a gas explosion in November 2022, while 41 AMT workers were killed in the country’s previous deadliest accident in 2006. AMT did not disclose if it would be compensated for transferring ownership, but in September Astana stated that it respected the rights of investors and that it had no intention of seizing AMT’s assets.

Europe: PM Sanchez backs amnesty for Catalan separatists amid large protests in Spain

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability; civil unrest

In Spain, on 28 October acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez stated that he supported granting amnesty for Catalan separatists facing legal charges following the failed 2017 independence bid. Sanchez is seeking to gain support from Catalan pro-independence parties in his bid for a new term. On 3 October he was nominated to seek a new mandate after Alberto Nunez Feijoo – People’s Party leader and winner of the 23 July election – failed to win enough parliamentary votes to become PM. On 24 October Sanchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE) reached a government coalition deal with the far-left Sumar bloc. Sanchez’s bid is unlikely to succeed without the seven votes of the Catalan Junts party, who demanded amnesty in exchange for their support. Tens of thousands of protesters have rallied in Madrid and Barcelona over the past few weeks against the potential amnesty. Further major civil unrest is likely.

MENA: Israel’s PM Netanyahu under increased pressure to deliver on military objectives in Gaza

Sectors: all
Key risks: internal conflict; external conflict; political stability

In Gaza, on 27 October Israeli forces carried out a second limited ground assault on Gaza City with infantry, tanks, air and artillery support. Tel Aviv reported striking dozens of Hamas targets and Israeli forces were able to leave the area without suffering casualties. However, while the Israeli government claims that targeted ground operations have successfully impaired Hamas’s military capabilities, the actual impact of these operations on Hamas remains unclear. Airstrikes and ground operations are expected to continue as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comes under increased pressure to fulfil his promise to ‘destroy’ Hamas and resolve the issue of Israeli hostages held in Gaza – objectives which may prove mutually incompatible. In particular, families of hostages have expressed their opposition to the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza and have called for an immediate ceasefire, which the government continues to adamantly oppose.

Sub-Saharan Africa: US to sanction Guinea-Bissau over failure to combat human trafficking

Sectors: all
Key risks: sanctions; political instability; economic

In Guinea-Bissau, on 25 October the US declared its intention to impose sanctions on Bissau in early 2024 over its failure to combat human trafficking. Washington stated that Bissau had not prosecuted any alleged traffickers for four consecutive years and had never secured a conviction under its anti-trafficking legislation. Traffickers continue to exploit Bissau-Guinean boys, subjecting them to forced labour in street vending, as well as in the agricultural and mining sectors in Senegal. Bissau relies heavily on foreign aid to sustain its budget and to finance various economic development projects. Sanctions will restrict the government’s access to financial resources and foreign aid, making it challenging to provide essential services like healthcare, education and infrastructure development. Other development partners, including the EU, will likely implement similar measures against Bissau.