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ACLED Regional Overview - Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean (18 - 24 June 2022)

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Last week in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, armed suspects carried out targeted attacks against activists and social leaders in Mexico and a lawyer in Honduras, while gangs continued to kidnap high-profile figures in Haiti. In Mexico, the Los Ardillos gang attacked Indigenous communities in Guerrero state, while overall levels of political violence increased in Chiapas and remained high in San Luis Potosí states. In Trinidad and Tobago, violence against civilians increased last week. Meanwhile, members of the LGBT+ community marched in Mexico and in Trinidad and Tobago in commemoration of LGBT+ Pride Month, demanding respect for their rights.

In Mexico, attacks against activists and social leaders increased last week. In Hidalgo state, a group of armed men shot and killed an environmental activist and injured two others at the entrance of a garbage dump in Atitalaquia municipality on 20 June. The activists had been camping outside the dump for a month, demanding its closure and claiming that the local government had allowed the operation of the dump despite violations of environmental regulations (Desinformémonos, 22 June 2022). Following the killing of the activist, people staged a protest in Atitalaquia, calling for justice and demanding the mayor's resignation. This attack contributed to the 300% increase in violence in Hidalgo over the past week relative to the past month, as flagged by ACLED's Subnational Surge Tracker.

Similarly, in Baja California state, gunmen shot and killed a woman social activist in Tijuana on 22 June. The activist was known for her advocacy work, demanding property deeds and improvements in living conditions for the residents of the Maclovio Rojas community. Members of this community denounced threats by armed members of other communities that seek to seize control of their lands (La Jornada, 24 June 2022). The representative for the UN Human Rights Office in Mexico highlighted that the continuous attacks against activists and human rights defenders are related to the failure of the justice system to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of such attacks (Infobae, 23 June 2022).

Elsewhere, in Guerrero state, the Los Ardillos gang attacked members of the Nahuas Indigenous communities in Chilapa de Álvarez municipality last week. During several days of attacks, members of the Los Ardillos gang shot at houses and deployed drones charged with explosives. The attacks were followed by a clash between the Los Ardillos gang and self-defense groups in Tula Guerrero after the Los Ardillos gang interrupted a press conference in which Indigenous authorities were reporting the attacks. Indigenous leaders have accused the government of siding with the Los Ardillos gang and failing to guarantee security despite their continuous denouncements of attacks by Los Ardillos (Infobae, 22 June 2022; InSight Crime, 13 May 2022). Last week's attacks are the first to be recorded in Guerrero with the use of explosive-laden drones since ACLED started its coverage in 2018. Gangs in Mexico have increasingly begun to use drones in attacks, pointing to "the increased tactical and operational sophistication of criminal groups in Mexico" (War On The Rocks, 11 November 2021).

In Chiapas, rioters shot and injured a government official during a demonstration last week in Oxchuc municipality, while gunmen shot and killed a Mayan Tzotzil Indigenous member of the Oxchuc municipal council. These attacks follow disputes between supporters of the current mayor of Oxchuc and members of the opposition who have rejected the result of the December 2021 local elections and demand a new election (El Sol de México, 22 June 2022). These trends led to the 220% increase in violence in Chiapas over the past week relative to the past month, as flagged by ACLED's Subnational Surge Tracker.

In San Luis Potosí state, violence remained high last week with national guard officers and gang members clashing in Cerritos municipality, leaving four gang members dead. Additionally, gang violence against civilians last week resulted in three civilians being killed. Such violence contributed to the 154% increase in violence in San Luis Potosí in the past month relative to the past year flagged by ACLED's Subnational Threat Tracker, which first warned of increased violence to come in the state in the past month. Several criminal groups dispute control of drug trafficking routes in San Luis de Potosí, including the Gulf Cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), and the Noroeste Cartel (Infobae, 6 April 2022).

In Honduras, unidentified armed men shot and killed a lawyer in front of his house in Juticalpa, Olancho department, on 24 June. Police claim that the killing could be related to his work, though they continue to investigate the case (El Heraldo, 25 June 2022). Experts have reported that gang activities have been increasing in Olancho as these groups seek to control drug routes (Criterio.hn, 5 May 2022), which has led to a rise in the levels of violence in this department. Additionally, last week, attacks by armed suspects throughout the country left 10 civilians dead. These trends contribute to the 58% increase in violence in Honduras over the past week relative to the past month that is flagged by ACLED's Conflict Change Map.

In Haiti, violence increased last week compared to the week prior, driven by gang kidnappings in Ouest department. In Croix-des-Bouquet district, armed men kidnapped the manager of a local media outlet and an official of the National Commission for Public Procurement in separate attacks. In Port-au-Prince, a former delegate of the Artibonite department was kidnapped in Petionville commune. Though most of the abductions in 2022 have been recorded in the center of Port-au-Prince, ACLED records an increase in kidnappings in the neighboring communes of Petionville and Tabarre, and Croix-des-Bouquets district. Meanwhile, on 20 June, unidentified gang members carried out shootings and set vehicles on fire in Petionville. The attack came after the Vitelhomme gang issued public threats in response to a police operation in the area (Haiti Standard, 20 June 2022). ACLED's Conflict Change Map first warned of increased violence to come in Haiti in the past month.

In Trinidad and Tobago, attacks against civilians by unidentified assailants left at least eight dead last week, leading to the 52% increase in violence in Trinidad and Tobago over the past week relative to the past month that is flagged by ACLED's Conflict Change Map. Most of the attacks occurred in the northern regions of the Trinidad island, including Arima, Chaguanas, Tunapuna Piarco, San Juan-Laventille, and Port of Spain. The northern division of the police force has reported that most of the violent incidents recorded in the northern regions are related to retaliatory attacks between criminal groups and disputes for the control of drug markets (Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 26 June 2022).

Meanwhile, members of the LGBT+ community marched in Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico last week as part of LGBT+ Pride Month commemorations. In Mexico, protests were recorded between 18 and 19 June in at least 19 of the 32 states of the country, with protesters calling for respect for LGBT+ rights, and an end to discrimination and hate crimes. Coinciding with these demonstrations, on 19 June, armed suspects shot and killed a transgender woman in Ecatepec de Morelos, Mexico state, for unknown reasons. Thus far in 2022, ACLED records an increase in attacks against LGBT+ people in Mexico compared to the same period in 2021, in line with local organizations that have found that hate crimes against LGBT+ people increased in 2021 (El Heraldo, 20 June 2022). Activists demand the recognition of hate crimes in the national penal code; until now, only 12 states have recognized them in their local legislation (EFE, 28 November 2021; El Heraldo, 20 June 2022).