Americas: Venezuelan government arrests opposition leader Machado’s close ally

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability; sanctions 

In Venezuela, on 9 March Attorney General Tarek Saab announced the arrest of Emill Brandt Ulloa – the regional campaign leader for opposition candidate Maria Corina Machado – over an alleged conspiracy against President Nicolas Maduro’s government by participating in anti-government protests in January. The arrest came amid an intensified government-led crackdown on dissent, including a 15-year ban – that the Supreme Court upheld on 26 January – preventing Machado from running against Maduro in the upcoming 28 July presidential elections. On 7 March Machado – who overwhelmingly won the 22 October 2023 opposition primary – ruled out naming a successor for the elections. The ban threatens the October 2023 Barbados Agreement, under which the opposition and the government agreed to take steps towards free and fair elections – that US sanctions relief depended on. Such elections will remain elusive and the crackdown on opposition will continue.

Click here to access Venezuela‘s Global Intake country profile.

Asia Pacific: China’s defence budget increases by 7.2 per cent; weapons imports to continue falling 

Sectors: all, military, defence, weapons, manufacturing
Key Risks: economy; diplomacy; supply chain

 In China, on 5 March at the National People’s Congress (NPC) opening Premier Li Qiang announced an increase in military spending by 7.2 per cent to CNY1.69tn (US$235bln), mirroring the rate of increase in 2023, but higher than the 5 per cent economic growth target. On 9 March People’s Liberation Army (PLA) spokesperson Wu Qian announced that the goal was to “improve strategic capacity to defend national sovereignty, security and development interests”. Major strategic projects are likely to benefit from increased spending in a bid to “strengthen the combat readiness and preparation for war”. The budget preceded an 11 March Stockholm International Peace Research Institute report demonstrating a 44 per cent drop in China’s arms imports between 2019-2023, from 2014-2018. The downward trend in weapons imports hints at Beijing’s rapidly developing domestic arms production industry, a sector expected to benefit from the increased budget. Arms imports are likely to further decrease as the PLA strives to become increasingly self-sufficient.

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

Eurasia: Putin set to secure fifth term in 15-17 March elections amid increasing repression

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political repression; civil unrest

In Russia, on 15-17 March citizens will vote in the presidential elections which President Vladimir Putin is poised to win. Putin has led the country as prime minister or president since 1999 and in December 2023 announced his intention to run for a fifth term. In July 2020 constitutional changes enabled Putin to seek a further two terms, allowing him to remain in power until 2036. The election comes after on 16 February Alexei Navalny – the country’s most prominent opposition leader – died under mysterious conditions at an Arctic prison colony. Also, on 8 February the Central Election Commission (CEC) banned anti-war presidential candidate Boris Nadezhdin from participating in the election. Elections are widely seen as neither free nor fair. The remaining candidates all operate as a ‘systemic opposition’ loyal to Putin’s regime. Any protests are likely to be met with police crackdowns.

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

Europe: Polish farmers set to intensify protests despite Warsaw’s pledge to cut grain surplus

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

In Poland, on 9 March the government pledged to cut the domestic market’s grain surplus during talks with farmers. However, farmers’ unions warned they would intensify their protests in the coming days. On 9 February farmers resumed blockades at 250 locations nationwide and blocked several border crossings with Ukraine to protest against EU policies they claim are hurting their industry – including environmental restrictions and the influx of cheap Ukrainian grain. Broader anti-EU farmer protests have now spread across Europe. On 6 March Kyiv stated it was willing to accept restrictions on its EU trade to end the long-running dispute with Warsaw, but urged Brussels to also ban Russian grain imports. Pressure is mounting on Warsaw and Brussels to find a solution. On 6 March farmers clashed with police outside Warsaw’s parliament. Further unrest is likely.

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

MENA: Humanitarian organisations warn of impending famine in Gaza amid stalled truce talks

Sectors: all
Key risks: war, humanitarian crisis

In Gaza, on 9 March several international humanitarian organisations reiterated warnings of impending famine in Gaza due to limited access to humanitarian aid through Israeli land crossings. In response, several countries, including the US have carried out airdrops of food over Gaza, however, the volume of aid delivered by air remains highly insufficient to meet the needs of the local population. Accordingly, Washington proposed setting up a floating military port off the Gaza coast to facilitate aid delivery, however, the port will likely take weeks to be fully operational. The US administration is said to be growing impatient with the Israeli government, with US President Joe Biden criticising Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach to the war as detrimental to Israeli security. With recent reports of failed ceasefire talks, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is likely to deteriorate in the coming weeks.

Click here to access Gaza and the West Bank‘s Global Intake country profile.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Insecurity likely to persist in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province

Sectors: all
Key risks: economic risks; business disruptions; humanitarian crisis; insecurity

In Mozambique, on 5 March the International Organization of Migration (IOM) reported that almost 100,000 people including 61,492 children were displaced in February by renewed attacks by Islamic State (IS)-affiliated militants in Cabo Delgado province. Authorities also revealed that 157 schools out of 978 had been closed due to rising insecurity. Despite a surge in violence in the province, the government has rejected calls to declare a state of emergency (SoE). The government is likely concerned that an SoE would deter TotalEnergies from building its US$20bln liquefied natural gas terminal in Rovuma basin which is expected to begin in the coming months. The project was halted in 2021 following a deadly IS-linked attack in the nearby town of Mocimboa da Praia. IS-linked militants will likely continue to launch sporadic attacks on villages in Cabo Delgado.

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