Global Security Briefing – November 2021

Mexico

Two foreign tourists were killed at a restaurant in a shootout between rival gangs in Tulum on Mexico’s Caribbean coast on 20th October 2021. The tourists, one from India and the other from Germany, are believed to have been caught in the crossfire at Tulum’s Mini Quinta entertainment zone. One of the victims was killed at the scene and another died in hospital.

Two German men and a Dutch woman were also injured during the shootout, prompting the German foreign office to issue a travel advisory about the incident, telling its citizens “If you are currently in the Tulum or Playa del Carmen area, do not leave your secured hotel facilities”.

Tulum is a popular tourist destination, which provides easy access to Mayan ruins and Caribbean beaches. However, in recent years Mexico has seen a rise in violent crime and this isn’t the first-time tourists have been caught up in the country’s violence. In 2018 nearly 70 US citizens were murdered in Mexico. The country has been blighted by drug cartel related violence since the government deployed the military in its “war on drugs” in 2006, during which time over 300,000 people have been murdered.

COP 26 Summit Glasgow, Scotland

COP26, the UN climate change conference will be held in Glasgow, Scotland from 1st to 12th November. The UK has seen an increased number of climate change demonstrations in recent years and it’s anticipated that environmental activists will target the summit to raise awareness of their concerns.

Although the summit venue will be subject to tight security, the police are preparing for disruptive protests to be launched without warning by groups including Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain, who have previously blocked major roads in England in a concerted campaign. Police Scotland says any protesters threatening violence or to cause damage will be dealt with “swiftly and robustly”.

Expect short-notice disruption to travel throughout the UK for the duration of the COP 26 Summit and avoid demonstrations, which could turn violent.

Sudan

Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the General who headed the Sovereign Council in Sudan announced a state of emergency across the country and dissolved the transitional government on 25th October 2021, effectively staging a military coup. In response, thousands of people took to the streets of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, after security forces arrested members of the country’s cabinet, including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and several pro-government party leaders.

The takeover comes more than two years after protesters ousted long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir and just weeks before the military was supposed to hand the leadership of the council that runs the country, over to civilians. Tensions have been rising in recent weeks, as the country fractured along old lines, with more conservative Islamists who want a military government pitted against those who toppled al-Bashir. 

Internet connections in the country have been cut and transport routes, including key bridges have been closed. The action of the Sudanese military has been widely condemned by the international community, including the UN, the EU, the US, the African Union and China. The situation remains volatile and the future of Sudan is far from certain, as violent clashes between demonstrators and the military on 30th October led to three people being shot dead and 38 people injured. 

Colombia

The arrest of the notorious Colombian drug lord, Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel is likely to bring further violence to the South American country. Otoniel was arrested after an operation involving more than 500 members of Colombia’s special forces and 22 helicopters. 

Otoniel is accused of trafficking huge quantities of cocaine into the US, murdering police officers, illegal mining and sexually abusing children. His capture was described by Colombian President, Ivan Duque as, “The biggest blow against drug trafficking in our country this century. This blow is only comparable to the fall of Pablo Escobar in the 1990s.” However, experts believe that the power struggle to take control of Otoniel’s Gulf Cartel will result in more violence, particularly in the Montes de Maria region and the wider northern Caribbean coastal area, which is popular with travellers.

Whilst cartel related violence in Colombia rarely impacts foreign visitors, the Colombian President cited that Otoniel was captured using intelligence provided by the UK and US governments and this could have an impact on travellers to the region.

Michael Bisley, Security Analyst

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