Americas Brief newsletter: 13-19 March 2019

A2 Global's latest Americas Brief analyses flooding in the U.S. Midwest, bomb threats in Mexico City, and teachers' industrial action in Colombia. 

United States & Canada 
  • United States � Flooding set to worsen in Iowa and Nebraska 
  • United States & Venezuela � American Airlines suspends flights to Venezuela 
Mexico, Central America & Caribbean 
  • Dominican Republic � Hauliers' strike heightens logistics, travel risks � Martinique (France) � General strike increases business risks 
  • Mexico � Wildfires in eastern state prompt evacuation of 2,000 people 
  • Mexico � Bomb threat prompts evacuation from Spanish bank�s offices 
South America 
  • Argentina � Social movements, trade unions to block roads across country 
  • Colombia � Striking teachers march in major cities, heightening travel risks 
  • Venezuela � Power supplies largely restored, reducing health, travel risks 
  • Venezuela � Opposition march to heighten security risks in Caracas today

United States & Canada

Flooding 

  United States � Flooding set to worsen in Iowa and Nebraska UNITED STATES � Natural hazard risk: Elevated 

18 March: There is severe flooding in eastern areas of the state of Nebraska and western parts of Iowa. In both states, rivers swelled and broke their banks after rain from the so-called �bomb cyclone� on 13 March. Impacted rivers include the Platte River and Elkhorn River. On 17 March, local residents were ordered to evacuate in North Bend, a town in Nebraska along the Platte River. On 19 March, up to 2.5cm of rainfall is forecast in eastern Nebraska, eastern Kansas, western Iowa and north-western Missouri, raising the risk of further flooding. 

  Why it matters: Individuals in the impacted areas should monitor local forecasts, exercise extreme caution and evacuate if ordered by the local authorities. Business travellers with planned visits to the impacted area, including the cities of Omaha and Kansas City, should monitor forecasts and re-confirm travel plans. Drivers, particularly of haulage vehicles, should reduce speed, keep to main highways and postpone non-essential journeys in impacted areas. 

  United States & Venezuela � American Airlines suspends flights to Venezuela UNITED STATES � Travel risk: Medium VENEZUELA � Travel risk: Extreme 

15 March: American Airlines announced that it suspended all flights to and from Venezuela. American, which was the last major U.S. carrier to fly to the country amid the ongoing humanitarian, political and economic crisis, has regular services between the U.S. city of Miami, and the Venezuelan cities of Caracas, the capital, and Maracaibo, a hub for the petroleum industry. Other major U.S. airlines, including United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, ceased flights to Venezuela in 2017. 

  Why it matters: The decision to suspend flights came after the APFA pilots� union, which represents American�s pilots, called on members to refuse any travel to the country following the U.S.�s 11 March decision to withdraw all of its diplomats and tell its citizens to leave the country. After American�s decision, only a small number of international airlines offer flights to Venezuela, including Iberia, Air France and Air Europa. A2 Global advises against all non-essential travel to Venezuela, due to the extreme security risks it presents and the ongoing humanitarian crisis.


Mexico, Central America & Caribbean

Dominican Republic flag 

 Dominican Republic � Hauliers' strike heightens logistics, travel risks DOMINICAN REPUBLIC � Travel risk: Elevated 

15 March: Haulage workers represented by the Fenatrado union took part in strike action across the country, to demand that the ministry of industry and commerce reveals how fuel prices are set. The action followed union complaints that decreases in global oil prices are not followed by similar price reductions at fuel stations. Workers participated in the strike action from 0600 to 1200 local time. 

 Why it matters: The strike followed similar industrial action over the high cost of fuel in the past six months. In September 2018, police and striking transport workers engaged in violent confrontations when the latter held demonstrations over rising fuel costs. A2 Global advises logistics managers to factor possible further strike action into operational planning. In the one-month outlook, business travellers should monitor local updates, exercise caution and remain a safe distance from any large gathering or protest, which could occur spontaneously in major urban areas. 

Martinique (France) � General strike increases operational and travel risks MARTINIQUE (FRANCE) � Travel risk: Minor 

15 March: The CSTM trade union, which represents workers from multiple sectors, announced that it would hold a general strike. The strike action, in which bus drivers and shipping workers participated, began on 19 March. The strike has been called in support of several workers at transport company SOTRAVOM, who have been threatened with dismissal. 

  Why it matters: The strikes are likely to continue into tomorrow (20 March), and could extend to private transport services and public administration. There is a low-moderate risk of the strike action impacting flights at Martinique Aim� C�saire International Airport (FDF), the island�s main airport. A2 Global advises business travellers in Martinique to monitor announcements from the CSTM, re-confirm travel plans, and anticipate travel disruption from the strike. Operations managers should ensure contingency plans are in place. 

  Mexico � Wildfires in eastern state prompt evacuation of 2,000 people MEXICO � Natural hazard risk: Elevated

13 March: Wildfires in the Las Vigas municipality of the eastern state of Veracruz, impacting a 500-hectare area, prompted the evacuation of 2,000 people from the Hojas Anchas, La Lobera and San Juan del Monte areas. The wildfires, which were 100 per cent controlled as of 15 March, according to local media reports, began on 11 March. The blaze caused disruption to electricity supplies in the Paisano area, while classes at 60 schools in the Las Vigas area were cancelled. No casualties were reported. 

  Why it matters: Companies with operations in Veracruz should monitor updates on possible wildfires; during the 2019 season, there have been at least 68 blazes. Firms should consider acquiring a standby generator, in case power supplies are disrupted, and ensure that wildfires are factored into contingency planning. 

  Mexico � Bomb threat prompts evacuation from Spanish bank�s offices MEXICO � Terrorism risk: Minor 

13 March: At approximately 1300 local time, around 11,000 employees of Spanish bank BBVA in the capital Mexico City were evacuated from company offices after it received anonymous bomb threats. The bank had received anonymous threats via emails and phone calls warning of �a possible explosive device� in the Torre Bancomer, one of the capital�s tallest buildings located on the main Reforma avenue. The threat prompted BBVA to evacuate the Torre Bancomer and its Parques Bancomer officers in the nearby Polanco neighbourhood. Police did not find an explosive device. 

  Why it matters: Powerful drug-trafficking organisations and criminal groups operate throughout the country, however these do not tend to issue such threats at high profile locations in the capital. It is more likely that the threats were issued by lone individuals seeking to cause significant disruption. Furthermore, it is probable that the Torre Bancomer building was targeted due to its size and location, rather than the nationality of the bank. In light of the threats, however, security managers in Mexico City should review security measures and egress plans. Evacuation drills should be regularly held.


South America

Buenos Aires 

Argentina � Social movements, trade unions to block roads across country ARGENTINA � Travel risk: Medium 

19 March: Tomorrow (20 March), supporters of at least six civil society organisations and trade unions will block key roads across the country. The protests have been organised to call for an expansion of social programmes and to oppose President Mauricio Macri�s deal with the IMF and associated cuts to government spending. In the centre of the capital Buenos Aires, the Callao and Corrientes roads will be blocked by protesters from an undisclosed time. There will also be roadblocks on five access routes to Buenos Aires: Puente Pueyrred�n; Riccheri; Autopista La Plata; General Paz and Puente Saavedra. Other roadblocks will be established in the cities of Santiago del Estero, Neuqu�n and Mar del Plata. 

Why it matters: The roadblocks are likely to last several hours and disrupt transport � last week, a roadblock on the Puente Pueyrred�n bridge lasted for approximately six hours. A2 Global advises business travellers throughout the country to monitor local updates and avoid all roadblocks as a precaution. Individuals in Buenos Aires and other major cities should allow additional time for travel and not attempt to pass roadblocks, as this could lead to violent retaliation from protesters.

Colombia � Striking teachers march in major cities, heightening travel risks COLOMBIA � Travel risk: High 

19 March: Today and tomorrow (19-20 March), members of the FECODE teachers� union, which represents educators at public schools, will strike across the country. In major urban areas, striking teachers will also participate in marches. The strike has been called to demand more funding for education in the government�s national development plan, which is currently being debated in congress. Today, teachers will hold information sessions in cities across the country. Tomorrow, marches will be held in major cities. In the capital Bogot� tomorrow, teachers will gather at 0900 local time at the Enrique Olaya Herrera National Park, from where they will march 3km south-west to Plaza Bol�var, the capital�s main square. 

Why it matters: Business travellers in major urban areas in the 48-hour outlook should monitor local updates, avoid all protests as a precaution, and allow additional time for travel. Individuals with flights from El Dorado International Airport (BOG), which serves Bogot�, tomorrow should allow additional time for travel due to the route of the march likely disrupting travel from the city centre. 

Venezuela � Power supplies largely restored, reducing health, travel risks VENEZUELA � Travel risk: Extreme 

13 March: Power distribution was re-established across most of the country. The end of the blackout was announced on state television on 13 March by communications minister Jorge Rodr�guez, who claimed that power has been �100 per cent restored�. The government ordered public employees to return to work on 14 March, however schools remained closed. The blackout began on the evening of 7 March. 

Why it matters: Despite Rodr�guez�s claims, media reports state that areas of the country continue to suffer power outages, particularly outside the capital Caracas. The restoration of power should allow patients to receive essential treatments in the country�s hospitals, and facilitate operations at airports, including Maiquet�a �Sim�n Bol�var� International Airport (CCS), which serves the capital. A2 Global assesses that intermittent power outages are likely in the one-week outlook, particularly in western Venezuela, including the city of Maracaibo, where severe looting took place on 13 March. Operations managers should factor the restoration of power into operational planning, adjusting service availability accordingly. Companies should ensure that contingency plans remain updated in anticipation of possible further outages.

Venezuela � Opposition march to heighten security risks in Caracas today VENEZUELA � Travel risk: Extreme 

19 March: Supporters of the FAVL coalition, which opposes the government of de facto president Nicol�s Maduro, will march in the capital Caracas today. Participants will gather at 0900 local time at Plaza Morelos, a square in the central La Candelaria district, before marching 2km west to the national assembly building, where they will demand guarantees and protection for public sector workers. After the march, participants will rally outside the offices of the United Nations Development Programme on Avenida Francisco de Miranda at 1500 to demand a greater involvement of the institution to resolve Venezuela�s humanitarian crisis. 

Why it matters: While the march will likely not gather as many participants as those recently organised by self-declared interim president Juan Guaid�, it is likely to cause localised traffic disruption. There is a moderate risk that protesters engage in violent confrontations with the security services, who could respond with tear gas or live ammunition. A2 Global advises all individuals in Caracas to monitor local updates, avoid the march and rally as a precaution, and allow additional time for travel.