Severity: Warning Alert

Security: May Day protests possible in major cities in Latin America May 1, despite COVID-19 restrictions. Transport disruptions, violence possible.

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Mexico
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Honduras
  • Panama
  • Venezuela

This alert began 30 Apr 2020 00:01 GMT and is scheduled to expire 02 May 2020 04:00 GMT.

  • Event: Protests
  • Location(s): Regionwide (map)
  • Date: May 1
  • Impact: Possible transport disruptions, potential violence

Summary
Activist groups and labor unions could stage street demonstrations in major cities in Latin America May 1, to mark International Workers' Day (May Day). Most governments across the region are maintaining restrictive measures, including curfews, as well as enforced social distancing practices to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Given the severe restrictions on domestic movements, most protests are likely to take the form of digital activism, or stay-at-home protests such as cacerolazos, or ruidazos - involving the banging of pots and pans - as they have in recent weeks. Nonetheless, street protests of varying sizes and degrees of disruption are possible throughout the region.

Protests are especially likely in countries where activists and workers have already defied stay-at-home orders and other movement restrictions by staging protests, such as in parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela. The protests have broken out over various issues, including the lack of food, job losses due to COVID-19 restrictions, and alleged police brutality under quarantine. Activists could take advantage of Workers' Day to further highlight their grievances. Demonstrators could stage vehicular go-slow protests to disrupt road traffic while practicing social distancing. Traditional street marches and road blockades are also possible.

The threat of violence at any protest that materializes is elevated due to the extraordinary security measures governments have implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19. Police will likely use force to disperse the gatherings; police commonly use teargas and water cannons. The looting of cargo trucks and supermarkets is also possible, especially near protests that break out over a lack of food, such as those that have recently occurred in Honduras, Panama, and Venezuela. Noting this, criminal elements could take advantage of any outbreaks of civil unrest to loot stores. Several incidents of looting occurred recently in various states in Mexico, as well as Mexico City, usually by unsophisticated criminals. Nonetheless, with the heightened security measures in place, incidents of looting across the region are more likely to be driven by desperation for food, and are most likely to target supermarkets and cargo trucks.

Advice
Avoid all protests. If violence breaks out, leave the area immediately and seek shelter in a non-governmental building. Do not attempt to drive through areas where protesters are blocking roadways; wait for the police to clear them or seek alternative routes. Follow all official instructions. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation.


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