Bombing attack in Turkey and disruptive census protests in Bolivia
Turkey: Istanbul bombing results in numerous casualties and arrests
A bombing on a central shopping street in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district on Nov. 13 killed at least six people and wounded 81 others, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Turkey in more than five years. The explosion occurred near the Taksim Square area on İstiklal Street – a busy area on the European side of the city popular with both locals and tourists that houses numerous foreign diplomatic missions. Security forces closed the street for several hours following the explosion, while authorities restricted access to social media platforms and imposed temporary restrictions on reporting about the blast and its aftermath. In the hours following the incident, Turkish police arrested a female Syrian national suspected of having placed the bomb, along with 50 other suspects. The detainee’s confession indicated that she illegally crossed into Turkey from Afrin, a Kurdish region of northwestern Syria, after being trained as a special intelligence officer by the Democratic Union Party (YPG) – a Syrian Kurdish militant organization with ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Both groups are designated terrorist organizations by Turkey. Despite government officials and state media blaming Kurdish militants, both the PKK and YPG have denied any responsibility for the attack, and media reports suggest that authorities are not ruling out connections to the Islamic State (IS). The Nov. 13 bombing was the first such attack in the country since a violent period between 2015 and 2017, when both IS and Kurdish armed groups conducted numerous attacks against civilians and government security forces, including in Istanbul and Ankara. While the Nov. 13 attack is unlikely to significantly alter the security landscape in Istanbul, the incident underscores that Turkey remains vulnerable to extremist attacks. Turkish police and other law enforcement agencies will likely increase security measures in the short-to-medium term to demonstrate a strong counter-terrorism response and minimize the impact on the country’s tourism industry – which suffered greatly as a result of the 2015-2017 wave of attacks.
Bolivia: Ongoing census protests disrupt travel, business in Santa Cruz
Protests over a planned population and housing census in Santa Cruz have entered their fourth week and resulted in widespread travel disruptions, property damage, and food shortages. Santa Cruz Governor Luis Fernando Camacho, along with various opposition groups, initially called for an indefinite general strike on Oct. 22, demanding that the government of President Luis Acre hold the census in 2023, ahead of general elections scheduled for 2025. Citing population growth due to domestic migration, regional opposition groups claim that the census – the first since 2012 – will allow for the adequate allocation of federal funds and Congressional seats. The strike and associated protests have so far been concentrated in Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s main livestock and agricultural region. The rallies have resulted in food shortages and price hikes for basic goods, costing the economy approximately USD 700 million. In addition to the economic impact, the rallies have significantly affected travel and commercial activity in the city as demonstrators set up roadblocks and clashed with security forces and groups aligned with the central government. According to government figures, four people have died and 178 others have been injured since the strike began in late October. Pro-government protesters have also looted and carried out arson attacks targeting offices of the local labor unions. In an attempt to quell the unrest, President Arce announced on Nov. 12 that the census would be held on March 23, 2024, and assured that the distribution of benefits based on the census results would be finalized by September 2024. However, this announcement has done little to calm the unrest; the Santa Cruz Civic Committee has vowed to sustain the strike until the government releases 20 people detained during the demonstrations and demanded guarantees that the results of the census will be applied before the 2025 elections. Considering current political disagreements between the central government in La Paz and regional opposition actors, protests are expected to persist in the short term, which will likely exacerbate economic damages and trigger further disruption to travel and business continuity across Santa Cruz.