Americas: Chile’s SQM suspends lithium mining operations due to protests in Antofagasta region

Sectors: mining
Key Risks: civil unrest; business interruption

In Chile, on 13 January SQM – the world’s second-largest lithium producer – stated that it had suspended operations at the Atacama salt flat, Antofagasta region, due to road blockades by local indigenous protesters. However, on the same day, the Atacama Indigenous Council announced the end of the blockades – ongoing since 10 January – after the Mining Ministry pledged that President Gabriel Boric would visit the area, though without specifying the timing. The blockades cut off access roads to the salt flat – where US firm Albemarle also operates – preventing workers, supplies and lithium from entering or leaving. Demonstrators claimed they were sidelined in the negotiation of a deal between SQM and state-owned Codelco – announced on 27 December 2023 – which strengthens state control of lithium. It was unclear whether protesters remained in the area. The risk of further similar unrest remains high.

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

Asia Pacific: DPP wins Taiwan’s presidential vote, loses parliamentary majority

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability; policy continuity; economic risks

In Taiwan, on 13 January Vice President Lai Ching-te won the presidential election with 40.1 per cent of the vote, securing an unprecedented third straight term for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih from the Kuomintang (KMT) won 33.5 per cent of the vote and former Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je from the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) garnered 26.5 per cent. The DPP lost its majority in the Legislative Yuan, with the concurrent legislative election resulting in a hung parliament. Lai will take office on 20 May succeeding outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen, whose term has been marked by heightened cross-Strait tensions. A lack of parliamentary majority and Beijing’s continued economic, military and diplomatic pressure will likely incur heightened governability risks for the incoming administration, impeding its domestic policy programme and stifling its ability to deal with cross-Strait issues.

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Eurasia: Romanian farmers blockade border crossing with Ukraine

Sectors: all; agriculture
Key Risks: civil unrest; trade disputes

In Ukraine, on 14 January Romanian farmers blocked the movement of trucks across the Siret border crossing between Romania and Ukraine for the second consecutive day. On 13 January a similar protest caused six hours of traffic disruptions. The blockade was part of a larger protest in several major cities – including Bucharest – that began on 10 January. Farmers demanded government assistance and subsidies to offset increased insurance rates and the influx of cheap Ukrainian goods into the EU. The protest came amid Polish farmers’ and truckers’ blockade of Ukrainian border crossings since 6 November 2023 over agricultural subsidies and the EU’s easing of rules for Ukrainian truckers. Since 8 January major farmer protests across Germany over subsidy phaseout plans also inspired the protests in Romania. Tensions over EU-Ukraine trade will persist. The blockades will further strain Kyiv’s economy.

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

Europe: Disputes between political elites heighten Poland’s political instability risks

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political instability 

In Poland, disputes between the new government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the former government of the Law and Justice party (PiS) and President Andrzej Duda have recently intensified, leading to heightened political instability and civil unrest risks. The dispute first erupted in late December 2023 over the government’s public media overhaul. Tensions deepened on 9 January after the police arrested two former PiS party members at the presidential palace on charges of abuse of power. On 11 January PiS organised a protest against the government’s moves in the capital Warsaw which saw the participation of tens of thousands of the party’s supporters. On 15 January Duda and Tusk met but found no compromise on the issues. Further disputes are likely to erupt in the coming months, intensifying tensions among the country’s political elites. 

Click here to access Poland’s Global Intake country profile 

MENA: Huthis begin targeting US warships in the Red Sea

Sectors: maritime shipping; oil and gas
Key risks: war on sea; regional escalation

In Yemen, on 14 January Iranian-backed Huthi militants launched an anti-ship cruise missile towards US warship USS Lahoon. This was considered to be the first retaliatory airstrike by the militant group on US forces following joint US-UK airstrikes in the east of the country on 12 January and a US airstrike near Sana’a on 13 January. The attack – which took place near the port city of al-Hudaidah on the Red Sea coast – was intercepted by a US fighter jet. Since 19 November 2023 Huthi militants have conducted 28 attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea in what the group states is a way to show solidarity with Palestinians amid the ongoing Israel-Gaza war. On 12 January the group’s Supreme Political Council stated that US and UK “interests” would become legitimate targets for the Huthis. Escalation in the Red Sea remains imminent.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa: Senegal’s Constitutional Council bars opposition candidate Ousmane Sonko

Sectors: all
Key risks: civil unrest; political instability 

In Senegal, on 12 January the Constitutional Council released a provisional list of candidates for the 24 February presidential election, including a total of 21 candidates. The court rejected opposition politician Ousmane Sonko – who is viewed as a formidable contender against Prime Minister Amadou Ba of the ruling Alliance for the Republic party – claiming that his application did not contain all the required documents. Sonko’s candidacy has been uncertain since 5 January, when the Supreme Court rejected his appeal against a May 2021 conviction that led to him receiving a six-month suspended sentence for libel. Candidates have until 16 January to appeal the Constitutional Council’s decision. The final list of candidates will be announced on 20 January. Sonko’s exclusion raises the risk of widespread opposition protests in the coming days.

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