Last week in South America, Indigenous militias carried out several attacks against forestry companies and private property in Chile. Moreover, violence erupted between supporters and opponents of the newly proposed draft Chilean constitution, which will be put to a referendum on 4 September. In Colombia, violent attacks against civilians were registered in the Valle del Cauca and Nariño departments. Additionally, in the Córdoba department, the Gulf Clan clashed with Colombian military forces. Finally, new cangaço groups blew up banks in the Pará and Rio Grande do Norte states in Brazil.
In Chile, Indigenous armed groups continued to carry out attacks against forestry companies and private property in the southern regions of Los Rios, Araucanía, and Biobío last week. In Biobío, the Mapuche Lavkenche Resistance (RML) fired shots at a farmer’s house and set fire to numerous civilian houses in the Huape municipality. Similarly, an Indigenous militia set fire to a forest company’s machinery in Chanchan municipality, before clashing with police forces arriving at the scene. ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker first warned of increased violence to come in Biobío in the past month. In addition, supporters of the Coordination Arauco Malleco (CAM) stormed forest sites and occupied land belonging to forest companies in the Araucanía region. They claim this is part of a demonstration to reclaim their ancestral lands. The Mapuche people have claimed for decades that their territory has been illegally requisitioned by agriculture and forestry companies acting with state complicity (Reuters, 10 July 2021) (*for more, see this ACLED analysis piece: Understanding Indigenous Conflict in Chile). Ongoing militia activity in the southern regions contributed to the 54% increase in violence in Chile last week relative to the past month flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map, which first warned of increased violence to come in the country in the past month.
Meanwhile, a group of unidentified individuals attacked a group of people campaigning for the rejection of the proposed new constitution with sticks in Temuco, Araucanía, last week. At least three people were injured in the attack, which comes a month out from a referendum on the draft constitution, scheduled for 4 September. In recent months, political parties and civil society organizations have organized themselves into broad factions, Apruebo (“I approve” in Spanish) and Rechazo (“I reject” in Spanish), ahead of September’s referendum (El Austral Temuco, 5 August 2022).
In Colombia, violent attacks against civilians were reported in eight departments last week, including in Valle del Cauca and Nariño. In the Valle del Cauca department, unidentified shooters opened fire indiscriminately against civilians in La Union municipality, killing five people. This violence contributes to the 140% increase in violence in Valle del Cauca over the past week relative to the past month, as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker.
In the Nariño department, heavily armed individuals fired shots against civilians in Barbacoas municipality last week, killing four Awa Indigenous men and injuring two others. This event contributes to the 100% increase in violence in Nariño over the past week relative to the past month, as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker.
Elsewhere, the Gulf Clan clashed with military forces in the Córdoba department last week, leading to the death of two military officials. While violence in Córdoba has not been common, it has become increasingly volatile, resulting in a shift from a place of ‘low risk’ to being considered an area of ‘growing risk’ by ACLED’s Volatility and Risk Predictability Index.
In Brazil, new cangaço groups blew up banks in São José do Campestre and Lagoa Nova municipalities, Rio Grande do Norte state last week. In Lagoa Nova, the group held two civilians hostage, before releasing them uninjured. These trends contribute to the 100% increase in violence in Rio Grande do Norte last week relative to the past month flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker. The Tracker first warned of increased violence to come in Rio Grande do Norte in the past month.
Similarly, in Pará state, another new cangaço group blew up a bank at Ipixuna do Pará municipality last week and held eight civilians hostage. Additionally, the group clashed with military police and the municipal guard, injuring one guard. While violence in Pará has been common, it has become increasingly volatile, resulting in a shift from a place of ‘consistent risk’ to being considered an area of ‘extreme risk’ by ACLED’s Volatility and Risk Predictability Index.
The term cangaço links to a form of social banditry in northeast Brazil between 1870 and 1930. This modality of crime involves heavily organized armed groups besieging small- and medium-sized cities to intimidate local populations. Their practices include blowing up bank agencies, post offices, ATMs, and lottery houses. This phenomenon is the backbone of other actions carried out by organized criminal groups, as the stolen money from these financial institutions is used to acquire new weapons and technologies to bolster organized crime in the country (UOL, 31 August 2021). Additionally, public security experts believe that the new cangaço phenomenon has evolved into a more extreme and violent style of robbery, known as city hijacking (domínio de cidades, in Portuguese), in which the goal is not only to increase the chances of a successful theft, but also to suppress any reaction from state forces (Ponte Jornalismo, 19 April 2022).