Haiti + 6 more

ACLED Regional Overview - Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean (23-29 July 2022)

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Last week in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, gang violence intensified amid clashes between rival criminal groups in Haiti and Mexico. In Haiti, violence continued to increase in Ouest department with clashes between the rival G-9 and G-Pep gang alliances in Port-au-Prince, and an attack by members of the 400 Mawozo gang against a courthouse in Croix-des-Bouquets district. In Mexico, a clash between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Sinaloa Cartel resulted in at least 15 deaths in Zacatecas state. In Guatemala and Honduras, gang attacks targeting women continued last week, while violence increased in Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, demonstrators erected roadblocks in Trinidad and Tobago and Panama during demonstrations against poor road conditions and increasing fuel and food prices, respectively.

In Haiti, the turf war between the G-9 and the G-Pep continued to escalate in Port-au-Prince last week. Clashes between G-9 and G-Pep-affiliated gangs were recorded throughout last week in the Bel Air neighborhood and downtown Port-au-Prince. On 27 July, gang members set Port-au-Prince's cathedral on fire and deployed tear gas during a clash in Bel Air, in which several people were killed and others injured by stray bullets. Amid the clashes, local sources denounced the use of state-owned machinery by the G-9, as well as the lack of action by state forces to ensure security in the capital (Alterpress, 27 July 2022; Le National, 28 July 2022). Since early July, the G-9 has intensified an offensive in Port-au-Prince, seeking to counteract the expansion of the G-Pep alliance, which has consolidated power in some neighborhoods in the capital and has gained new allies in surrounding districts (InSight Crime, 21 July 2022). This violence contributed to the 40% increase in violence in Haiti in the past month relative to the past year flagged by ACLED's Conflict Change Map, which first warned of increased violence to come in the country in the past month.

Elsewhere, in Ouest department, members of the 400 Mawozo gang --- a G-Pep ally --- set a courthouse on fire in Croix-de-Bouquets district on 25 July, destroying judiciary documents. The incident came in retaliation for police operations in the area, and followed public threats and the killing of a police officer by 400 Mawozo members the day prior (Gazette Haiti, 26 July 2022). Attacks against state institutions by gangs have been ongoing throughout 2022. The destruction of Croix-des-Bouquets' courthouse follows the seizure of Port-au-Prince's First Instance courthouse in June by the Base 5 Secondes gang.

In Mexico, a clash between the CJNG and the Sinaloa Cartel resulted in at least 15 deaths in the southern municipality of Apulco in Zacatecas state last week. Following the clash, members of these cartels blocked roads with vehicles set on fire. Additionally, in Fresnillo municipality, three members of the CJNG were killed in a clash with an unidentified criminal group. The CJNG controls the drug production and trafficking routes in the south of Zacatecas state, while the Sinaloa Cartel has sought to expand its control in the center and the south of the state (Animal Político, 21 June 2022). The weak or non-existent capacity of state forces to provide security in several municipalities --- including Apulco, which lacks a municipal police force and functioning local government (El Sol de Zacatecas, 25 July 2022) --- has allowed criminal groups to run operations without state disruption.

In Guatemala, attacks against civilians by armed suspects resulted in the deaths of seven people last week. Most of the attacks occurred in Guatemala City, where members of the Barrio 18 gang shot and killed a woman leader of the Community Councils for Urban and Rural Development. While police continue to investigate the motivation behind the attack, one of the gang members has been arrested (Prensa Libre, 29 July 2022). Such violence contributed to the 100% increase in violence in Guatemala department last week relative to the past month flagged by ACLED's Subnational Surge Tracker, which first warned of increased violence to come in this department in the past month.

Similarly, in Honduras, members of the Los Torrotos gang shot and killed a woman in Intibucá department who was under state protection as a witness to a case of sexual abuse perpetrated by members of Los Torrotos. Relatives of the victim denounce the state for a lack of proper security measures to guarantee her protection (El Heraldo, 27 July 2022). ACLED's Emerging Actor Tracker flagged the Los Torrotos gang as an emerging actor over the past month in Honduras; the presence of emerging actors indicates a change in the conflict environment, with civilians often bearing the burden of such new activity. Local organizations have denounced the failure of the Honduran and Guatemalan justice systems to investigate femicides and abuses against women, leaving most cases unpunished (EFE, 23 March 2022; Expediente Público, 8 March 2022).

In Puerto Rico, violence against civilians increased last week. In San Juan, gang members killed three people and injured another in an attack in the Hato Rey neighborhood. A clash between police and armed men in the same neighborhood also left one person dead. These trends contribute to the 100% increase in violence in San Juan last week relative to the past month flagged by ACLED's Subnational Surge Tracker, which first warned of increased violence to come in San Juan in the past month. Meanwhile, police forces and officers of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested 33 members of the Michael Molina gang, which controlled the sales of drugs in Fajardo municipality (Swissinfo, 27 July 2022). The arrests come after Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi requested support from the US federal authorities in June to fight against criminality on the island (El Nuevo Día, 14 June 2022).

In Trinidad and Tobago, people demonstrated for four consecutive days against poor road conditions and lack of a drainage system last week. Demonstrators barricaded roads with burning tires and debris in Princes Town, Couva-Tabaquite-Talparo, and Penal-Debe regions, and Chaguanas municipality in the southwest of the country. Though government officials claim to have paved around 300 roads in 2022, reports suggest that work has been undermined by a lack of coordination between state institutions and the poor quality of the paving work (Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 27 July 2022).

Meanwhile, in San Juan-Laventille region, three people were killed in separate attacks by armed suspects last week. Additionally, on 25 July, people barricaded roads in several towns of this region and other areas along the North Coast of the country, claiming justice for the killing of a man by police officers in the previous week. According to police, the demonstrations were ordered by an imprisoned gang leader close to the victim, who was killed in a clash that ensued after the officers ordered him to stop at a checkpoint (Newsday, 26 July 2022). This violence contributes to the 167% increase in violence in San Juan-Laventille last week relative to the past month flagged by ACLED's Subnational Surge Tracker, which first warned of increased violence to come in San Juan-Laventille in the past month.

In Panama, demonstrations against the high cost of living continued last week for a fourth consecutive week, though to a lesser extent than weeks prior. The majority of demonstrations were held in Veraguas, Chiriquí, and Panama provinces. Violent incidents were recorded in the latter two amid heightened tensions between demonstrators and people opposed to the continuation of the roadblocks. In Chiriquí, truck drivers ran over two demonstrators as they were trying to go through a roadblock, while in Panama province, rioters clashed with local leaders and producers who tried to lift a roadblock. This violence contributed to the 703% increase in violence in Panama in the past month relative to the past year flagged by ACLED's Conflict Change Map, which first warned of increased violence to come in the country in the past month. Following negotiations between the government and labor leaders that started on 21 July, authorities have announced reductions in the price of gasoline and price caps for basic products, leading to the end of some roadblocks in several municipalities (DW, 26 July 2022). However, teachers, workers, and Indigenous communities continue to demand greater reductions, while representatives of the private sector have rejected the regulation of prices and denounced their exclusion from negotiations (EFE, 30 July 2022).