Argentinian government urges Buenos Aires residents to leave city for G20
Argentina’s capital city will go into a total security shutdown on Thursday as the heads of state of the world’s 20 biggest economies start arriving for the two-day G20 summit, which begins on Friday.
All flights over Buenos Aires will be diverted and trains, subways and all public transport will be cancelled for the duration of the summit, as the city braces for around 33 anti-G20 protests and cultural events.
Friday has been declared a public holiday, and the center-right government of the Argentinian president, Mauricio Macri, has encouraged the city’s inhabitants to head out of town during the conference.
“We recommend you use the long weekend to leave,” said the security minister, Patricia Bullrich. “Leave on Thursday because the city’s going to get very complicated.”
The cancellation of public transport will extend beyond the capital city itself and spill over into parts of the greater Buenos Aires area, affecting its total 12 million inhabitants.
Around 22,000 police and security agents will be involved in the vast security operation.
“There will be lots of no-go zones, because the security measures will be very strong, and we’re going to take immediate decisions if there’s any violence because we’re not going to allow it,” Bullrich said.
“We know there are attempts to generate spaces of extreme violence and situations of chaos and disturbances during the G20,” Bullrich warned.
Police in Buenos Aires came under criticism over the weekend when they failed to stop supporters of the River Plate football club from attacking a bus carrying players from rival club Boca Juniors.
Nerves were already frayed last week when four bomb scares forced the evacuation of the senate, the US embassy and other public buildings.
In a country with a long tradition of large, though generally peaceful, street protests, anti-G20 campaigners are planning a large number of demonstrations and events.
A day-long demonstration including a “Summit of the People” is scheduled for Thursday on the giant square in front of congress, further complicating downtown traffic.
Another large protest has been scheduled to coincide with the start of the summit on Friday, although its location has not been announced.
Adding to the security stress is the question mark looming over the summit is the
scheduled attendance of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who has overseen a disastrous war in Yemen – and who western intelligence agencies including the CIA have concluded ordered the murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Prosecutors are considering a writ presented on Monday by Human Rights Watch, arguing that the Argentinian courts should invoke a universal jurisdiction statute to seek prosecution of Prince Mohammed for war crimes and torture.
Although the writ is likely to be rejected by the court, Prince Mohammed’s presence will pose a dilemma for world leaders on whether to participate in meetings with him.
Donald Trump, who has dismissed the reported findings of his own intelligence agencies, has said he is prepared to meet the prince, despite growing opposition in Congress to US military support for Saudi Arabia.
The US president will arrive in the largest air fleet bringing attendees to the summit: 10 aircraft – also carrying land vehicles and armed helicopters – will ferry the US delegation to Buenos Aires.
Advanced US security teams have been in Buenos Aires for 12 days, and Washington will also assist Argentina’s security forces with “low-level radar coverage, extended air surveillance and detection coverage, persistent early warning capability”, according to a US diplomatic note obtained by the Guardian.
During the summit, a US navy vessel, three E-3 Awacs surveillance aircraft and three KC-135 refuelling aircraft will be involved in monitoring Buenos Aires, while the US Department of Homeland Security will also provide a mobile emergency response centre and “cyber intelligence support”, according to the note.
The Saudi delegation will arrive in six planes; representatives of most of the other G20 countries – including the UK – will arrive on single planes.