Americas Brief newsletter: 3-9 April 2019

This version of the Americas Brief newsletter looks at vehicle delays on the US-Mexico border, anti-government protests in Venezuela, and flooding in the capital of Paraguay.

United States & Canada

  • Canada – Third rapeseed firm at risk of Chinese import ban
  • United States – Storm system to bring heavy snowfall to north-east, plains

Mexico, Central America & Caribbean

  • Cuba, Venezuela & United States – New US sanctions target oil supply
  • Mexico and United States – Delays at border amid agent redeployment

South America

  • Argentina – Andes Líneas Aéreas cancels flights today amid labour disputes
  • Brazil – Bridge collapse in northern state heightens risk of export disruption
  • Colombia – Government and indigenous groups make deal to end blockade
  • Paraguay – Authorities declare emergency over capital flooding
  • Venezuela – Opposition leader announces protests on 10 April

United States & Canada

Canada flag

Canada – Third rapeseed firm at risk of Chinese import ban
CANADA – Political risk: Minor
2 April: The Canadian government announced that Chinese authorities have filed a non-compliance notification against a third, unidentified, rapeseed firm.

Why it matters: The complaint is likely concerning allegations of contamination. While it does not constitute an import ban, it follows China’s blacklisting of Richardson International Limited, one of Canada’s largest grain processors and the largest fully Canadian-owned exporter on 1 March, and Viterra Incorporated, a further Canadian grain processor, on 26 March. China is Canada’s largest customer for rapeseed; it receives around 40 per cent of Canada’s exports of the product, accounting for 17 per cent of all Canadian exports to China. The bans are likely reprisals over Canada’s ongoing extradition of Chinese technology company Huawei Technologies’ CFO Meng Wanzhou to the United States. Reprisals have also included the detention of Canadian citizens resident in China. A2 Global reiterates its advice to U.S. and Canadian companies operating in China to factor in the possibility of reprisals. These could include delays in granting licences, processing shipments, and approving visas, as well as the detention of Canadian or American citizens in China. A2 Global advises U.S. and Canadian business executives and travellers to assess whether their business activities or relations with Chinese regulatory authorities might provide a pretext for detention or increased scrutiny.

United States – Storm system to bring heavy snowfall to north-east, plains
UNITED STATES – Natural hazard risk: Elevated
9 April: A major storm system will bring heavy snowfall, high winds and widespread flooding to the north-eastern and north-central states on Wednesday (10 April) through to Friday (12 April). Up to a metre of snow is possible in some areas of South Dakota, north-eastern Nebraska and southern Minnesota. The temperature in Omaha, Nebraska, is forecast to fall from around 26.5C on Monday to around 4.5C on Friday. The main flood risk is likely to occur along the Mississippi River.

Why it matters: A2 Global warns the storm system will cause widespread disruption to air and road travel, with many regional airports forced to either temporarily cease or limit operations. Passengers booked to fly into or within the region in the next few days are advised to check with their carriers before travelling to the airport. We also advise against non-emergency road travel for the duration of the storm and its immediate aftermath.


Mexico, Central America & Caribbean

Tanker

Cuba, Venezuela & United States – New US sanctions target oil supply
CUBA, VENEZUELA & UNITED STATES
5 April: The US has imposed new sanctions targeting Venezuela’s supply of oil to Cuba, it announced on 5 April. The US Department of the Treasury has placed sanctions against 34 vessels owned or operated by Venezuela’s state oil firm PDVSA, as well as one commercial vessel, the Despina Andrianna, owned by Liberia-based Ballito Bay Shipping Incorporated, which transports oil to Cuba. Sanctions have also been imposed on Ballito Bay Shipping Incorporated and another firm which operates in Venezuela’s oil sector: Greece-based ProPer In Management Incorporated.

Why it matters: The US has imposed a series of sanctions since January 2019 in an effort to restrict funding and support for the government of Venezuela’s de facto president Nicolás Maduro. The latest measures seek to constrain Caracas’ ties with Havana, Venezuela’s foremost regional ally. Compliance officers of firms which operate in Venezuela’s oil sector should factor the measures into sanctions programmes.

Mexico and United States – Delays at border amid agent redeployment
MEXICO – Travel risk: High
UNITED STATES – Travel risk: Medium
2 April: Cargo vehicles entering the US from Mexico faced up to 12-hour delays after approximately 750 US border agents were transferred to immigration duties amid an uptick in migrant arrivals, mostly from Central America. According to a report from the Reuters news agency, delays were particularly severe for commercial traffic at the crossing between Ciudad Juárez in Mexico’s Chihuahua state and the US city of El Paso, Texas, while there was also disruption at the Tijuana-San Diego and Nuevo Laredo-Laredo crossings. The staff transfers, announced the previous week, were not a direct consequence of US President Donald Trump’s 29 March threat to close the border.

Why it matters: Commercial traffic at the US-Mexico border is worth USD1.7 billion per day, and delays at the border have a significant impact on just-in-time industries, including manufacturing, as well as agriculture. In the one-week outlook, there is a high risk that delays will persist as fewer officials oversee commercial traffic. Businesses whose operations and supply chains cross the border should factor likely disruption into operational planning. Notify customers of delays, and, where necessary, consider alternative means of transport such as air cargo.


South America

Argentine aircraft

Argentina – Minor airline cancels flights today amid labour disputes
ARGENTINA – Travel risk: Medium
9 April: Cabin crew at airline Andes Líneas Aéreas are participating in strike action today (9 April). The strike began at 0000 local time and is set to last 24 hours, severely disrupting flight operations. The dispute relates to the late payment of salaries.

Why it matters: The strike action is likely to lead to numerous cancellations. Individuals with flights using Andes Líneas Aéreas in the one-day outlook should re-confirm their flight status prior to travelling to the airport. If flights are cancelled, consider alternative carriers or methods of transport.

Brazil – Bridge collapse in northern state heightens risk of export disruption
BRAZIL – Travel risk: Elevated
6 April: A 200m section of a bridge crossing the Moju river in the northern state of Pará collapsed after one of its pillars was hit by a ferry. The bridge is located approximately 50km south of the city of Belém, the state capital and a major port. Governor Helder Barbalho has declared a state of emergency.

Why it matters: The collapse of the bridge is set to impact soybean and corn exporters who use northern ports. In particular, grain loaders at the port of Belém are likely to face significant disruption due to reduced river and road access. Disruption is also possible at the Vila do Conde and Barcarena river ports. As the rebuilding of the bridge is likely to take at least several months, A2 Global advises firms which operate in Pará’s agriculture sector to factor the collapse into operational and strategic planning. Hauliers should consider using alternative access routes.

Colombia – Government and indigenous groups make deal to end road blockade
COLOMBIA – Travel risk: High
6 April: Indigenous groups agreed to end a blockade of the Pan-American highway in the south-western department of Cauca – a major route connecting it to central Colombia and the Ecuadorian border – after a deal was reached with the national government. The deal includes USD257 million worth of investment in areas including education, health, housing, and other measures to boost productivity.

Why it matters: The blockade, which began in late February, led to food and fuel shortages in Cauca department, as well as significant disruption to commercial transport. The lifting of the blockade reduces the travel and security risks on the Pan-American highway. A2 Global advises firms with operations in Cauca to factor the end of the blockade into operational planning and re-adjust service availability accordingly. Despite the end of the blockade, hauliers should continue to exercise heightened vigilance on the route, and, where possible, travel during daylight hours to mitigate the security risk posed by armed groups which operate in the area.

Paraguay – Authorities declare emergency over capital flooding
PARAGUAY – Natural hazard risk: Low
3 April: The municipal government of the capital Asunción declared a 90-day state of emergency after the Paraguay river, which crosses the country, burst its banks, causing severe flooding. The flooding followed two weeks of heavy rains throughout the country, which have impacted approximately 20,000 families. In Asunción, the high water level led to a spread of waste material and a proliferation of diseases such as Dengue fever. The state of emergency declaration will speed up the municipal and national government relief efforts, such as the distribution of housing materials.

Why it matters: A2 Global advises firms with operations in Asunción and the surrounding area to factor the flooding into operational planning, adjusting service availability accordingly. Review contingency plans and consider their implementation. Logistics managers should instruct hauliers to exercise vigilance and drive on main highways while the flood risk persists.

Venezuela – Opposition leader announces protests on 10 April
VENEZUELA – Travel risk: Extreme
9 April: Opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó has called on supporters to protest in major urban areas across the country tomorrow (10 April). The time and locations of protests have not been announced, however, these are likely to take place in central squares or on important thoroughfares. In Caracas, protests are likely in the eastern Las Mercedes district and on Avenida Francisco de Miranda. Protests are also likely in other major cities, including Maracaibo, Barquisimeto, and Valencia. Supporters of the ruling PSUV party of de facto president Nicolás Maduro have announced rival rallies from 10-13 April.

Why it matters: While the protests are set to be smaller than those held on 6 April, there is likely to be a high security presence in major urban areas, particularly Caracas. There is a high risk of confrontations between protesters and the security forces, which are loyal to Maduro. The latter are likely to respond to unrest with water cannon, tear gas, and even live ammunition. Individuals in large cities should monitor updates, exercise extreme vigilance, and avoid all protests. Conduct all journeys under strict journey management protocols.

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