13th G20 Summit: Security in Buenos Aires Tactical Guide
The 13th Edition of the G20 Summit will take place in Buenos Aires between November 29-December 1. More than 20,000 local security agents will be dispatched to secure the venue of the event and potential focal points for protests and violence.
Argentina will host approximately 8,000 participants to the summit, including foreign leaders, ministers, politicians, and officials. At least 2,500 journalists have been granted clearance to cover the event, and around 1,000 people will work in the summit’s logistics.
While the area in the vicinity of Costa Salguero, the venue of the summit, will remain under lockdown, we assess there is high potential for unrest and violent demonstrations in central districts of Buenos Aires. There is also potential for industrial actions ahead and during the summit, potentially leading to temporal flight disruptions.
Furthermore, we assess there is a distinct risk of low-level and high-profile militancy as well as violent activism in Buenos Aires during the summit, especially in relatively well-off neighborhoods such as Puerto Madero, Recoleta, and Retiro.
CONFIRMED TRAVEL DISRUPTIONS
CURRENT SITUATION IN ARGENTINA
ASSESSMENTS: SECURITY AHEAD AND DURING THE G20
VIOLENT PROTESTS LIKELY IN CITY CENTER, RECOLETA, RETIRO, PUERTO MADERO
RECOMMENDATIONS: TRAVEL AND SAFETY IN BUENOS AIRES
AVOID TRAVELING TO OR FROM ARGENTINA BETWEEN NOVEMBER 29-DECEMBER 2
ANTICIPATE TRAFFIC DISRUPTIONS, MINIMUM FUNCTIONS IN LOCAL CIVIL SERVICE
Published on November 16, 2018. Updated November 26, 2018.
Contact us for particular queries or for active monitoring services during the G20 summit.
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PLEASE BE ADVISED OF THE FOLLOWING TRAVEL DISRUPTIONS:
According to official sources, various travel disruptions will be witnessed between November 29-December 2. Timeframes are expressed in local time (GMT-3):
Buenos Aires’ airspace will be restricted between November 29-December 1
Ezeiza International Airport (EZE): Regular commercial traffic. Heightened security presence at terminals and passport controls.
Jorge Newbery Airport (AEP): No commercial flights from 15:00 on November 29 to 22:00 on December 1.
El Palomar Airport (EPA): No commercial flights from 15:00 on November 29 to 22:00 on December 1.
In the event of industrial actions disrupting air traffic controls (ATC), Airport Security Police (PSA) and personnel from the Air Force (FAA) will assume control of ATC services.
Maritime restrictions will be enforced by the Naval Prefecture (PNA) between November 29-December 2:
Passenger ferries services operating to and from the Buquebus Terminal in Puerto Madero are not slated to be affected.
The port of Buenos Aires will suspend operations from 15:00 on November 29 to 12:00 on December 2.
All recreational sailing activities will be banned during the aforementioned timeframe.
The following highways and avenues in Buenos Aires will remain closed to traffic from 15:00 on November 29 to 12:00 on November 2:
Autopista Illia, Canito, Lugones, Figueroa Alcorta, Sarmiento, Dorrego, and Ramos Mejía. These are located in the vicinity of Costa Salguero, the venue where the summit will take place.
Costa Salguero will stay closed to the public from November 27 to December 2. Security forces will mount a 12 km security perimeter.
Roadblocks and security checkpoints will probably be witnessed in the neighborhoods of Puerto Madero, Retiro, and Recoleta, where foreign delegations will lodge. These measures are expected along Alvear Avenue.
The 9 de Julio Avenue will be closed to traffic between November 30 and the morning hours of December 1. Subway stations along the avenue will remain closed during this time. The G20’s Evening Gala, gathering world leaders, will take place on December 1 at Teatro Colón.
Railroad activities across Buenos Aires will shut down from 10:00 on November 30 to 12:00 on December 2.
CURRENT SITUATION IN ARGENTINA:
The G20 will take place against the backdrop of mounting social grievances owing to Argentina’s economic hardships, and the government’s inability to appease left-leaning groups and unions. Bitterness against the government has perceivably increased in recent months following a series of developments underscoring the country’s deteriorating situation.
For instance, in May President Mauricio Macri initiated talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to finance Argentina’s public debt. While a deal was reached in June, and subsequently revised in September, the decision to engage the IMF is deemed as highly controversial, especially due to the demand that Argentina must commit to reducing public spending to stabilize its finances. According to the opposition, the government’s overtures to the IMF are reminiscent of market-oriented policies implemented during the 1990s at the behest of international creditors and liberal economists. In all, left-leaning groups accuse Macri of deliberately executing IMF recommendations at the expense of overall welfare.
As the government negotiated with the IMF, disagreements over economic policy led to internal divisions within Macri’s administration, causing, in turn, negative reactions from markets. Amid rampant inflation, the country responded by rising the Central Bank’s interest rate to 60% in late August and later to 65% in late September. That month recorded the highest inflation in a single month since 1991.
Coupled with underlying labor-disputes between the government and unions, these factors have lately contributed to several strikes and demonstrations causing travel disruptions. Particularly damaging, since September 27 there have been six strikes paralyzing commercial aviation, the latest transpiring on November 16. In turn, protests continue to transpire frequently in Buenos Aires. These often devolve into violence, especially in the capital’s center, as hooded demonstrators scuffle with police and commit acts of vandalism against private and public property. Moreover, protesters are known to mount roadblocks in highways and avenues to bring attention to their cause. Locally known as “piquetes,” local sources estimate that there is an average of 500 per month on a nationwide basis.
Notable instances of unrest were witnessed on October 24-25 as the 2019 Budget Bill was debated at Congress’ Lower-House. Demonstrators protesting against spending cuts clashed with security services and vandalized nearby shops and cars, throwing rocks at police, who in turn shot rubber bullets to disperse crowds.
The government has invested considerable political capital to ensure the Budget Bill passed at the Senate on November 14 ahead of the G20. Furthermore, notwithstanding surging tensions with unions, Macri’s administration has seemingly obtained reassurances from the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), the largest union in the country. In exchange for the CGT’s commitment not to organize a strike ahead or during the G20, the government has pledged to increase workers’ Christmas bonuses afforded to employees as part of their December salaries. That said, factions within the CGT and left-leaning groups have publicly stated that they will not rule out the possibility of carrying out further industrial actions and protests.
Video of violent demonstrations outside Congress in Buenos Aires on December 18, 2017. Dozens of police agents were wounded.
Unruly protests in Buenos Aires have become a common sight in the city center.
SECURITY AHEAD AND DURING THE G20 SUMMIT
Roadblocks and demonstrations are likely to take place beyond Costa Salguero, where the summit is being held. ATC services liable to be temporarily disrupted
Taking into account that disenfranchisement with the government continues to mount in certain sectors of society, there is high potential for localized acts of violence, including vandalism against private and public property, as well as unruly demonstrations in central Buenos Aires ahead and during the G20 Summit.
Given roadblocks and security posts along highways and avenues connecting Costa Salguero, protesters are not likely to reach the premises of the summit. The venue is relatively far from residential areas and it is hard to reach by foot, making it even harder for demonstrators to arrive to the area.
Organizers of large anti-government protests usually hire buses to transport supporters to Buenos Aires’ city center from different locales in the Greater Buenos Aires area. While vehicles carrying demonstrators will not be allowed to penetrate the security perimeter, protesters could still travel to key areas in the city. Although security forces will probably monitor entry points to Buenos Aires, the General Paz highway circling the city will not be closed to traffic. Likewise, the Riccheri, Dellepiane, and 25 de Mayo highways connecting Ezeiza International Airport (EZE) with the city center are poised to remain open.
Precedent in previous protests suggests activists could mount roadblocks (“piquetes”) along these points, potentially leading to significant traffic disruptions. Considering that the Riccheri highway leads to the airport and that it runs along the ground with no barriers preventing potential infiltrations, demonstrators could target the highway and thus cause a significant incident. That said, convoys carrying international leaders are unlikely to be affected. To minimize exposure to potential risks, most planes carrying foreign delegations are likely to arrive in early morning hours while traffic is minimum. Whilst wide-body aircraft (ICAO code D/E/F) will likely land in EZE, narrow-body planes (ICAO code C) will likely land in AEP and EPA.
Bearing in mind strikes disrupting commercial aviation have become frequent, a strike disrupting air trafficking control (ATC) services cannot be ruled out. Noteworthily, on November 12, the head of the Commercial Airline Pilots Union (APLA) suggested the union could potentially carry out a 72-hour strike during the summit, hinting that unions in the air sector could resort to this measure if the government ignores their requests. However, as previously mentioned, official sources have confirmed that the personnel fromAirport Security Police (PSA) and the Air Force (FAA) have been trained to assume control of ATC services. Therefore, while industrial actions would likely cause temporal disruptions, these would probably be limited to a few hours if not less.
Protests and violent incidents are likely to be witnessed in Buenos Aires’ city center, Recoleta, Retiro, Puerto Madero.
Demonstrators belonging to unions and left-leaning groups will most likely call for anti-government and anti-G20 rallies, potentially taking place in Plaza de Mayo outside the “Casa Rosada” Presidential Palace, Plaza Congreso (outside Congress), Santa Fe and Corrientes avenues.
Following precedent of violent demonstrations during the 12th G20 Summit in Hamburg, where radical anti-globalization activists set vehicles on fire in relatively well-off areas, protesters could potentially attempt to cause disruptions in the Recoleta, Retiro, and Puerto Madero neighborhoods, especially given that foreign dignitaries are likely to lodge in these areas. Although security forces will remain in high alert for potential incidents across the city, most available agents will be deployed within a 12 km radius of the venue. However, security in central Buenos Aires will be most stringent ahead and during the evening Gala on December 1.
Flyers published on social media calling for protests on November 30 and to oppose the G20 Summit.
Official sources have confirmed that foreign intelligence services have provided local security services with a list of more than 2,000 troublemakers, who could potentially attempt to enter the country. Considering that the G20 Summit usually attracts radical and violent activists from different regions and countries, the 13th edition is not likely to be an exception. Even though immigration authorities are likely to deny entry to a number of flagged individuals, violent instigators are still liable to evade border controls. This is especially the case in regards to land checkpoints with Uruguay, where security is not deemed stringent.
Intelligence sources indicate that a local anti-globalist group known as ATTAC, officially inactive since 2006, is being financially supported by the British Global Justice Now movement, opposing the G20. In late 2017 this group wired about 15,500 USD to ATTAC’s bank account in Argentina. Subsequently, in May, ATTAC received funds transferred from Germany. These transfers underscore that foreign activists are invested in organizing actions to counter the summit in Buenos Aires.
In November 2005 Argentina hosted the 4th Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata. The event was attended by 31 foreign leaders, including former U.S. President George W. Bush, whose presence triggered violent demonstrations in Mar del Plata and Buenos Aires. With this precedence in mind, security services have been preparing for the G20 in advance, receiving instruction and training from foreign experts and agencies. That said, these efforts were oriented toward dealing with heightened risks posed by militancy and military-grade assaults, and not necessarily to cope with large demonstrations.
In case of disturbances beyond the 12 km security perimeter protecting Costa Salguero, regular and riot control agents from the Federal (PFA) and City Police are likely to be dispatched to contain the situation. In turn, better-trained elements from the Gendarmerie (GNA), Naval Prefecture (PNA), and Army (EA) are likely to remain stationed along the coastal area surrounding the summit’s venue. Foreign security details will also be stationed in Costa Salguero and in the respective hotels lodging each delegation.
Owing to domestic political considerations, Argentinian authorities have traditionally remained reluctant to authorize police to evict violent demonstrators through force. In light of the upcoming challenges, and to avoid such hesitancy, the government has formed a “special command center” to place security services under direct orders from the Ministry of Defense, and thus avoid the risk of countermanding instructions from different civilian and military authorities. Although this measure could prove effective in dealing with crisis situations, security bodies are not accustomed to working under these circumstances.
Noteworthily, on November 24 security forces failed to anticipate or foil a hooligan attack against a bus transporting players from a rival team. The bus was approaching the “Monumental” stadium, located in the Nuñez neighborhood of Buenos Aires, where the final match for the Libertadores Cup between River Plate and Boca Juniors was slated to take place. While the City Police was in charge of security, it failed to coordinate tasks with the GNA. This sets a bad precedent ahead of the G20 Summit.
Meaningful risk of militancy ahead and during the summit despite heightened security controls
The risk of both low-level and high-profile militant attacks taking place in Argentina ahead and during the summit cannot be ruled out.
Low-level threats include parcel bombs and low-yield explosives.Precedent of previous G20 summits suggests both local and foreign activists could attempt to cause disruptions and bring attention to their cause through such means. Even if foiled, these attacks still garner media coverage, especially against the backdrop of the summit. Related incidents in Buenos Aires include a parcel bomb which detonated inside a post-processing facility in December 2017 and a low-level improvised explosive device (IED) placed beneath a police car in January 2018.
Moreover, there has been an uptick of such instances lately, underscoring the risk posed by radical anarchist and far-left activists. On November 14 two potentially related incidents took place. First, an IED exploded at the mausoleum containing Ramón Falcón’s remains in the Recoleta Cemetery, wounding the suspect who placed the explosive. An anarchist slogan on a metal sheet was also found at the scene. Falcón is remembered as a hawkish police commander who cracked down on low-class workers during protests at the beginning of the 20th century, and who was subsequently killed by an anarchist in 1909 in a bombing attack. Anarchist and far-left groups in Argentina cherish the memory of the assailant, and currently portray Minister of Defence Patricia Bullrich as a new incarnation of Falcón. A second explosive tossed at the house of a prominent judge was detonated by police. Left-leaning groups consider the judge to be closely aligned with the incumbent government. Following these incidents, on November 15 security forces carried a raid in the San Cristobal neighborhood detaining ten suspected anarchist activists.
Another incident potentially connected with anarchist activity transpired on November 24, when five bomb scares were recorded in Buenos Aires. A building housing congressmen offices was evacuated after a suspicious package was found in a library. A similar incident transpired at the residence of the American. Ambassador, located in the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy. The headquarters of a bank located in the city center and a hospital in the Flores neighborhood were also evacuated after police received anonymous calls warning about an explosive device inside the buildings. Finally, two grenades were found in railroad facilities located in the José C. Paz city in the Buenos Aires Province. Bomb disposal units were dispatched to said locations, subsequently ruling out any danger.
On November 7 the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office updated its travel recommendations for Argentina, noting that “terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Argentina.” Minister of Defence Bullrich criticized the advisory, rejecting such claims. However, on November 15 security forces detained in Buenos Aires two brothers suspected of sympathizing with Hezbollah. During a raid, police found carbine rifles, shotguns, handguns, and ammunition, as well as documents with Hezbollah insignia. Official sources confirmed that the brothers flew frequently to Qatar, the UAE, and Turkey departing from Buenos Aires, raising suspicions that they might have received professional training from militant cells in the Middle East.
Pictures of weapons and documents seized by the Federal Police (PFA)
following the arrest of Hezbollah sympathizers in Buenos Aires on November 15.
Apart from Buenos Aires, attacks of this kind are also liable to take place in other parts of Argentina. This is especially the case in Patagonia, where radical indigenous groups belonging to the Mapuche community operate, mainly the Mapuche Ancestral Resistance (RAM). The group is mostly composed of small cells of assailants and seeks to establish a Mapuche nation-state in southern Argentina and Chile. It is known to carry out arson attacks against property and vehicles belonging to landowners. Additionally, the group has targeted public infrastructure and has also threatened to bomb the Vaca Muerta oil and shale gas field located in the Neuquén Province.
In light of these incidents and threats, we assess that there remains a meaningful risk of militancy. Coupled with surging radical activism, the country still faces considerable challenges stemming from organized crime and the presence of Hezbollah cells, especially in Buenos Aires and in the Tri-border-area between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.
Distinct risk of airborne attacks
Airspace over Buenos Aires will be closely monitored by the Argentinian Air Force (FAA). Official sources confirmed that between November 29 and December 2 a 460-kilometer no-fly area surrounding the capital will be enforced. The area has been named ADIZ G20. Non-authorized aircraft within the area will allegedly be shot down. Given Argentina’s lack of sufficient multi-role fighter jets suitable to shield airspace over Buenos Aires, the United States is deploying the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to international waters in the Southern Atlantic. The ship reportedly carries 70 F-18. American fighters will be responsible to survey Argentinian skies, along with a limited number of A-4AR Fightinghawk deployed by the FAA. The American aircraft carrier will also provide additional radar coverage. Furthermore, the Argentinian government procured three radars from a state-owned company, modernized two, and acquired Israeli-developed equipment (ELI-4030 Drone Guard) to jam radio signals and thus prevent drones from reaching sensitive areas.
While these precautions are warranted, recent security incidents underline potential risks during the summit. Despite GPS restrictions preventing consumer drones from flying in the vicinity of restricted areas, in November 2017 a drone hit a commercial airliner moments before landing in AEP. More recently, on November 11, a private pilot reportedly interfered with radio communications between airliners and ATC in AEP from the airport premises. Sources in pilot unions indicated that whilst not all incidents gain coverage from the media, these events have become somewhat common as a result of deficient communication infrastructure, which cannot allegedly cope with a surging number of flights in Argentina’s skies. Coupled with Argentina’s relative lack of experience in shielding its airspace during events such as the G20 Summit, the aforementioned incidents translate in potential security liabilities.
INTERACTIVE TACTICAL MAP
TRAVEL AND SAFETY IN BUENOS AIRES
Avoid traveling to or from Argentina between November 29-December 2
Coupled with flight disruptions anticipated for the duration of the summit, there remains a possibility for limited strikes and further disruptions caused by labor-actions. In order to avoid potential unpleasantries and delays, we advise not to travel to or from Argentina during these days.
Exercise vigilance and avoid the vicinity of protests and demonstrations due to potential for violence
Violent incidents and protests are most likely to transpire in the city ahead and during the summit. Convenient lodging areas less exposed to protests and vandalism episodes include the neighborhoods of Palermo and Belgrano.
Anticipate traffic disruptions, minimum functions in local civil services
Heightened security measures between November 29-December 2 will translate into considerable traffic disruptions, especially during working hours on November 29-30. To mitigate this scenario, the mayor of Buenos Aires designated November 29-30 as days of rest, encouraging private enterprises to do the same, or allow their employees to work from home. Anticipate therefore minimum functions in local civil services.
Anticipate potential for minimum consular services during the G20
As a result of the upcoming summit, embassies and missions from participating nations will probably be placed under heavy security protection, especially those of G8 nations, many of which are located in central and relatively well-off areas in Buenos Aires. Citizens of nations in the G20 are advised to anticipate potential for minimum consular services owing to heightened precautions.
Avoid using ride-sharing apps in the city due to risk of violence stemming from regular taxi drivers
On November 5 Buenos Aires’ City Legislature adopted a law contemplating steep fines for drivers caught using ride-sharing apps. Moreover, there have been many instances of violence against drivers and users alike stemming from taxi drivers. Locally known as “Uber hunters” (Caza Ubers), some taxi drivers are prone to harass and assault individuals they suspect to be using these apps.
CONTACT US FOR INTELLIGENCE AND ACTIVE MONITORING SERVICES AHEAD AND DURING THE G20 IN BUENOS AIRES.
Galat Intelligence is a risk and travel-advisory firm focused in Latin America. We help large organizations anticipate and mitigate security-related risks in Latin America by providing time-sensitive intelligence, reports, and forecasts.