Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil: Essequibo me.
Also: Finland, Russia, Panama, Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.
VENEZUELA. GUYANA. BRAZIL. Essequibo me.
A dormant colonial-era dispute reignites.
Brazil’s army was reportedly placed on alert on Tuesday for a possible Venezuelan invasion of Guyana. The International Court of Justice said it would deliver a judgement on Friday on Venezuela’s referendum over its territorial claims.
INTELLIGENCE. The disputed territory is the Guyana-administered region of Essequibo. In 1899, an Arbitral Award established the boundary between Venezuela and then-British Guiana, which Guyana sought in 2018 via the ICJ to confirm as enforceable. But Venezuela has unilaterally organised a referendum for 3 December to ask whether it should consider annexing the territory. Essequibo is critical to Guyana, making up roughly two-thirds of its landmass.
FOR BUSINESS. The boundary meant little until ExxonMobil discovered oil in 2015 in Essequibo. Another recent major discovery means Guyana’s reserves are larger than the UAE or Kuwait. Neighbouring Brazil is on high alert – any invasion would need to pass through its territory – the Venezuela-Guyana border is a thick jungle with no roads. Logistics means an invasion remains unlikely. Guyana has reportedly asked the US for assistance if it does occur.
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FINLAND. RUSSIA. Just across the border.
Moscow borrows a Belarusian playbook to disrupt its neighbours.
Finland on Tuesday closed its border with Russia for two weeks in an attempt to stop increased flows of Middle East and African migrants into the country. Helsinki has accused Moscow of pushing asylum seekers over the border.
INTELLIGENCE. Finland has experienced an abnormally high number of asylum seekers, with some 900 people from Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen entering via Russia since November. It used to be around one person, per day. The Finnish Government has accused Russia of facilitating asylum-seeker arrivals as retaliation for Finland joining NATO earlier this year. Russia denies it, of course, but has its fingerprints all over it.
FOR BUSINESS. The border closure extends only to human traffic at this point, with cargo trains still able to pass. Finland has a 1,340-kilometre border with Russia which is difficult to police and relies on cooperation between the two nations. Russia knows it has hit a weak point – migration is a political hot potato in Europe. It’s a similar disruptive strategy to that used by ally Belarus, which has previously sent migrants across its border to NATO state Poland.
With the brevity of a media digest, but the depth of an intelligence assessment, Daily Assessment goes beyond the news to outline the implications.
PANAMA. CANADA. Quantum entanglement.
Opponents of a large copper mine claim victory.
The Panama Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled a 20-year concession for a Canadian copper mine as unconstitutional. The legal challenge was the last-ditch attempt by the mine’s opponents to stop the deal from going ahead.
INTELLIGENCE. Panama had previously reached an agreement with the Canadian mining company, First Quantum, back in March, with final contract approval given on 20 October. The court’s decision is a headache for Panama, which must now face the prospect of an international arbitration claim. Protests centred around ecological impacts and the effect on drought-afflicted water supplies. The protests also included a blockade of the mine’s power plant.
FOR BUSINESS. The mine, Cobre Panama, is a major part of the economy, accounting for 3% of GDP, and is the largest source of government revenue outside the Panama Canal. The deal included a 20-year mining right with an option to extend for another 20 years and annual payments of $375 million to Panama. Any revised agreement would have to go through another constitutional process, likely making the mine dormant for some time to come.
MEXICO. Might is right.
More airports are given over to military control.
Mexico on Tuesday passed control of four more airports to the defence ministry, a priority for outgoing President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. His chosen successor, Claudia Sheinbaum, recorded a 24-point polling lead on Tuesday.
INTELLIGENCE. AMLO has been busy enacting his vision of military control of civilian assets before he departs following elections in June. His goal is to tame corruption and mismanagement, which has been endemic in ports, train stations and airports for years. The defence ministry will run the airports through a sub-entity and already controls seven others. At Mexico City’s airport, it will soon also control everything from customs to baggage handling.
FOR BUSINESS. Mexico’s military is hardly unblemished. Data leaks in 2022 exposed soldiers selling weapons to cartels, running surveillance programs, and keeping secret dossiers on politicians, activists, and feminists. With the military becoming involved in every facet of life, the potential for abuse is growing. Yet the dangers of militarisation, so obvious throughout Latin America’s history, are not being heeded while cartel violence dominates the headlines.
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SAUDI ARABIA. Exposing realities.
Another Gulf diplomatic coup with World Expo 2030.
Saudi Arabia has won the right to host World Expo 2030, comprehensively beating out competitors Italy and South Korea. Italy immediately denounced the decision. South Korea was outbid by Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
INTELLIGENCE. Riyadh has scored yet another soft power coup, with a vote tally of 119 votes to Rome’s 17 and Busan’s 29, after an intense campaign that lasted months. Italy immediately accused Riyadh of unfair tactics by lavishing money on advertising, including using soccer star Ronaldo who now plays for a local club. Saudi Arabia becomes the second Gulf state to host the World Expo after the UAE’s 2020 event was interrupted by Covid-19.
FOR BUSINESS. Riyadh continues its push to expand beyond a petrostate into a genuine financial and tourist hub. It says it will spend close to $8 billion in investments for the event. The World Expo is held every five years and attracts millions of visitors. Saudi Arabia’s wealth continues to change the investment landscape. Its sovereign wealth fund has just taken a stake in London’s Heathrow Airport as Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial offloads its shares.