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In Global Guardian's monthly Risk Barometer, our Intelligence Team highlights current global hotspots with the potential to impact your business operations and travels. Read below for analysis on the threats we are closely monitoring this month and click here to subscribe for regular intelligence updates.


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Violent Unrest Flares in Michoacan State After Cartel Alignment Shifts

The final weekend in August saw a significant escalation in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacan state. The violent clashes, including shootouts, vehicle blockades, and fire-bombings, started in the municipality of Buenavista before spreading to Apatzingan and Uruapan. Two OXXO convenience stores were targeted with Molotov cocktails. As a result of the unrest, at least two suspects were killed, five police officers injured, and six more suspects arrested.

Global Guardian recommends low-profile, secure transportation for all travel within Mexico. At this time, we also advise against non-essential travel to Michoacan.

The violent unrest in Michoacan is the result of ongoing conflict between the Cartel Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) and Carteles Unidos, a loosely coordinated group of cartels operating in the Tierra Caliente region that includes La Familia, Templarios, and Los Miguelados, a former CJNG ally.

Los Viagras, once the strongest member of the Carteles Unidos, reportedly switched sides and formed an alliance with the CJNG in Michoacan. This came as a surprise, as Los Viagras were considered bitter enemies of the CJNG. The shifting alliances within the cartel landscape will have violent ramifications in Michoacan and elsewhere, including Guerrero, Jalisco, and Guanajuato.


Public transportation was suspended in Apatzingan amid the violence and remaining convenience stores were closed. After the weekend of violence, Mexico deployed 1,200 members of its National Guard to help enforce security in the areas of Uruapan and Apatzingan. This may lead to a temporary reduction in violence, but further conflict and unrest is likely in the medium and long term.


Michoacan, already one of the most violent states in Mexico, could see a full-blown cartel war break out as the Viagras-CJNG alliance strengthens. The conflict centers on control of the Lazaro Cardenas port, the Tierra Caliente region, and the routes connecting these areas to the center of the country. Cartel interests in the region include methamphetamine, other synthetic drug laboratories, the extortion of agricultural producers — especially avocado and lime growers — and the illegal exploitation of mines. Additionally, chemical precursors and synthetic drugs — including fentanyl and its precursors — arrive through the port of Lazaro Cardenas. Minerals, which are often used as payment for chemicals, also leave through the port headed for China amongst other destinations.

Key Takeaways

Clients operating in or traveling to these “hot spots” within Mexico should maintain vigilance while on the ground and anticipate the ongoing risks to travelers, logistics, and operations. Shifting cartel alliances, emerging criminal entities, and new tactics all add to the risk matrix in Mexico. Pre-travel intelligence is a key part of both trip and contingency planning.


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Palace Coup in Gabon Further Normalizes Military Takeovers in Africa

On 30 August, military officers in Gabon seized power and placed President Ali Bongo under house arrest. Officers of the Presidential Guard unit announced the annulation of the previous week’s election results, closed the borders, and suspended all state institutions. Gabon’s is the eighth coup in Central and West Africa since 2020. The situation in Gabon is relatively stable, but it represents another point in a destabilizing pattern of democratic backsliding on the continent.

Current Situation

The putschists — the Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions (CTRI) — have begun the process of solidifying power. Gabon’s international borders and flights reopened on 02 September, though a nationwide curfew is in effect:

  • 22:00-06:00: Libreville
  • 18:00-06:00: Select areas on the outskirts of Libreville, between Marseille and Akanda, as well as from Nkok and Sobraga towards Owendo
  • 19:30-06:00: Rest of the country

The CTRI unanimously elected General Brice Oligui Nguema — former head of the Presidential Guard — as President of the transitionary regime. The CTRI also appointed leading opposition figure Raymond Ndong Sima as prime minister. Ali Bongo’s son, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, and others associated with the Bongo regime have been arrested for corruption and treason while Jean-Remy Yama, a prominent trade union leader, has been released from prison. Prime Minister Sima announced a 24-month timeline for the restoration of democratic rule, citing the need to undo nearly 60 years of dynastic rule and cronyism.

Global Guardian recommends that those in-country carry proper identification, any relevant travel documents, and a valid Gabonese visa at all times.

  • Travelers should avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings.
  • Firms with travelers in Gabon should have a contingency plan in place should the junta impose new travel restrictions. Monitoring the political situation and pre-travel intelligence is recommended ahead of any travel to Gabon.


Ali Bongo’s father, Omar Bongo, took power in 1967 and ruled until his death in 2009. Omar Bongo was a staunch ally of France and used his reign to enrich himself, his family, and his supporters. Ali Bongo continued his father’s close relationship with France, and domestic patronage system. Gabon is a major commodities exporter and features one of the highest per capita GDPs in Africa. However, most Gabonese live in poverty, and the country has a nearly 40% youth unemployment rate. This disparity explains the population’s largely ambivalent reaction to Bongo’s deposition.

While the coup has enjoyed some popular demonstrations of support, enthusiasm is likely being dampened by Oligui’s own association with the kleptocratic Bongo dynasty and French interests.

Ali Bongo’s election in 2009, as well as his reelections in 2016 and 2023, were marred by irregularities and accusations of fraud. Bongo’s 2016 reelection saw widespread violent demonstrations, and in 2019 officers unsuccessfully attempted to stage a coup. It is likely, given Bongo’s growing unpopularity and the population’s frustration with continued economic inequality, that this coup was a preventative measure by elements of Bongo’s inner circle to retain control of the country’s lucrative natural resources.

If this is the case, Gabon’s coup may have more in common with the coups of the Sahel than meets the eye. Both Generals Tchiani in Niger, and Hemedti in Sudan were facing dismissal — and thus discontinued access to rent — immediately before they launched their coups. This assessment is supported by the absence in Gabon of the anti-French rhetoric presented in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Oligui’s appointment of a former Eramet executive (Eramet is a major French mining concern which has indefinitely suspended Gabonese operations) as minister of petrol, indicates that Oligui and the CTRI hope to maintain economic ties to France. The CTRI has also stated that Bongo is free to travel abroad for medical treatment, likely a move to curry favor with the international community, particularly the African Union (AU), whose leadership is increasingly coming to fear for their own personal safety in light of the wave of recent coups.

Key Takeaways

Gabon is unlikely to destabilize in the near term. However, a continuation of corrupt practices, and a failure to adhere to a reasonable democratic transition timeline, will likely incur destabilizing popular backlash in the medium to long term. Gabon’s coup also increases the likelihood of similar power seizures in the region as its success and the muted international response contribute to the normalization of coups in Africa.


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