Americas: Heightened protest risks in Cuba amid government plans to hike prices or cut rations

Sectors: all
Key Risks: civil unrest; economic

In Cuba, on 22 December President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s government stated that it would have to either increase fuel and electricity prices or reduce rations for basic supplies amid a deepening economic crisis. The planned measures were announced after Economy Minister Alejandro Gil stated on 20 December that the economy likely contracted between 1 and 2 per cent in 2023, and inflation ran at about 30 per cent. The statement will conflate already high levels of public frustration over the short supply of food, medicine and fuel, which has led to several protests in recent months. Although rare, further similar anti-government protests – which are banned under the Communist Party of Cuba’s (PCC) one party regime – should be expected to occur sporadically. Growing pressure on the government to reform its state-run economy is likely as the crisis continues to deepen.

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Asia Pacific: Furnace blast at Chinese-backed nickel plant sparks workers protests in Indonesia

Sectors: nickel; mineral processing
Key Risks: industrial action; disruptive unrest; business risks

In Indonesia, on 27 December around 300 workers protested against working conditions at a nickel processing plant owned by PT Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel (ITSS) – a unit of China’s Tsingshan Holding Group – at the Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park (IMIP) in Morowali regency, Central Sulawesi province. The protest followed a 24 December furnace blast which killed 19 workers – eight of whom were Chinese nationals – in the latest in a series of industrial accidents plaguing the country’s booming nickel industry. Protesters listed 23 demands, largely aimed at improving occupational safety standards. The incident will further fuel concerns over unsafe working conditions in the many mineral processing facilities dotted in the region. Left unaddressed, similar accidents will likely incur further workers protests and damage investor and public confidence in the government’s flagship mineral downstreaming policy in the long term.

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Eurasia: EU reportedly working on EUR20bln fund for Ukraine after Budapest blocked aid

Sectors: all
Key Risks: war-on-land; economic risks

In Ukraine, on 26 December reports emerged indicating that the EU was working on a plan to pass a EUR20bln (US$22.1bln) aid package to Ukraine after Hungary’s Prime Minister Orban blocked a EUR50bln (US$55.3bln) four-year plan on 14 December. The new plan would likely use a debt structure. According to some sources, participating countries would issue financial guarantees to the EU budget, enabling the EU Commission to borrow over EUR20bln in capital markets for Kyiv in 2024. However, terms are yet to be finalised. The delays in agreeing to new EU and US funding have reportedly already caused Kyiv ammunition shortages and mandated a pullback in some operations. Efforts to find an alternative plan are likely to intensify in the coming months, with EU officials hoping to provide the aid by March.

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Europe: Civil unrest risks in Serbia heightened following 17 December elections

Sectors: all
Key Risks: civil unrest; political instability

In Serbia, the risk of civil unrest has increased following the 17 December parliamentary and local elections – both won by the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). The opposition claims that the local election in the capital Belgrade was fraudulent, accusing the SNS of bussing people to the capital to vote. Thousands have taken to the streets in a series of protests, demanding the annulment of the Belgrade election. On 25 December a protest in Belgrade turned violent, with protesters attempting to storm the town hall and police firing tear gas to repel them. Eight police officers were reportedly injured during protests while 30 demonstrators were detained. President Alexandar Vucic from SNS claimed the protests were “plotted in advance” while the opposition accused the police of excessive violence. Further protests with the potential to turn violent and/ or disruptive are likely.

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MENA: US-Islamic Resistance confrontation escalates in Iraq

Sectors: all
Key risks: external conflict; regional escalation

On Iraq, on 25 December three US soldiers were injured in a suicide drone attack on the US’s Erbil Air Base in the Kurdistan Region. The attack was carried out by Iraqi Iran-backed Shi’ah militias – collectively known as the ‘Islamic Resistance in Iraq’. Since 17 October dozens of Islamic Resistance attacks targeted US bases in the country, as well as in Syria, in response to US support for Tel Aviv in the ongoing Israel-Gaza war. On 26 December US forces launched retaliatory airstrikes on Shi’ah militia positions in southern Iraq, killing one militant and injuring 24 others. The Iraqi government denounced the airstrikes as an “unacceptable violation of sovereignty”. Whether these recent events will mark a significant escalation in the ongoing confrontation between Iran-backed militias and US forces remains unclear. Nevertheless, further Islamic Resistance attacks and US retaliatory strikes are likely.

Click here to access Iraq’s Global Intake country profile.

 Sub-Saharan Africa: Widespread unrest likely in the DRC following disputed election

Sectors: all
Key risks: political instability; civil unrest; economic

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, on 27 December police officers in the capital Kinshasa fired tear gas to disperse protests by opposition supporters calling for a re-run of the 20 December general election. On 23 December five opposition candidates called for a joint demonstration in response to alleged ‘massive fraud’ and irregularities in the electoral process. Delays in opening polling stations and shortages in voting materials were reported by various election observers. Partial results released by the electoral commission indicate that incumbent President Felix Tshisekedi won 78.8 per cent of votes cast, compared to 17.3 per cent for his nearest rival Moise Katumbi. The final result is expected to be announced on 31 December at the latest. The opposition will likely intensify protests in the coming days, causing disruptions to business operations and supply chains countrywide.

Click here to access the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Global Intake country profile.