Last month in Central America and the Caribbean, demonstrations continued at high levels, though there was a sharp decline in events directly related to the coronavirus pandemic. In Mexico, protests were reported over a US-Mexico bilateral water treaty. In Haiti, the killing of a constitutional lawyer following a controversial interview sparked unrest across the country. In Cuba, political actors and members of opposition groups continued to be the victims of targeted attacks. Successful law enforcement operations against gangs were reported in Honduras, Jamaica, and Mexico. Meanwhile, gang violence continued, with clashes reported in Honduras, Mexico, and Haiti.
Throughout August, demonstrations remained relatively high. As measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus remain in place, workers from different sectors demanded the resumption of economic activities in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Panama. In addition, health workers, who have been on the frontline of the pandemic, protested over the lack of personal preventive equipment and against poor labor conditions in the Bahamas, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama. Mobilization of the health sector was particularly notable in Mexico, where the highest rate of death among health workers has been reported (Amnesty International, 3 September 2020).
With the number of coronavirus cases gradually decreasing in Central America and the Caribbean, the focus of demonstrations has shifted to other demands. In the first week of August, demonstrations directly related to the coronavirus pandemic accounted for half of all demonstrations, compared to only 15% of demonstrations in the first week of September.
In Mexico, weekly anti-government demonstrations organized by the National Front against AMLO (FRENA) were reported throughout August. The FRENA movement has been rejecting the socialist agenda and policies introduced by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and has vowed to have him resign before 30 November. Last month, supporters of the president started to participate in counter-protests. Although these demonstrations are sporadic and mostly peaceful, members of FRENA and supporters of President López Obrador clashed in Cadereyta on the sidelines of a presidential visit to an oil refinery in the state of Nuevo Leon.
Meanwhile, in the state of Chihuahua, the US-Mexico 1944 Treaty over the use of the Rio Grande waters continues to generate protests. Farmers protested against the delivery of water held in the upstream Mexican dams of La Boquilla, Las Virgenes, and El Granero to the United States as agreed in the treaty. In this water-stressed region, farmers from both sides of the border have been relying on the water resources of the Rio Grande. Although tensions have been going on for years, demonstrations over the issue have increased in 2020, with a record number of events registered last month.
In Haiti, the killing of Monferrier Dorval, the president of the Bar Association and a well-known constitutional expert, sparked unrest throughout the country. The lawyer was shot dead outside his house on 28 August after a radio interview where he pleaded for changes to the constitution and addressed other controversial topics. The President of Haiti condemned the attack, but activists allege the state was involved in the killing (Tikozepam, 3 September 2020). This event takes place against a backdrop of increased insecurity and targeted attacks against activists in Haiti. Earlier in May, armed men opened fire at the office of the Réseau National de Défense des Droits de l’Homme (RNDDH), an organization that promotes human rights and has been a strong critic of the government and rampant corruption (FIDH, 20 May 2020).
In Cuba, state forces continued to repress the activities of opposition groups with at least seven attacks recorded in August. Throughout 2020, Cuban authorities have increasingly used force against activists and members of the opposition amidst rising discontent over access to basic commodities.
Last month, the number of armed clashes in the region remained steady with gang activity reported across the region. In Jamaica, the efforts of law enforcement to curb gang activities resulted in the killing of six gang members of the Bushman Gang on 2 August, the arrest of a high-ranking officer of the Kings Valley Gang on 4 August, and the killing of the leader of the Teacher gang on 20 August. In June, the Jamaican Prime Minister announced an increase of security force operations in an effort to tackle the activities of the 389 active gangs believed to be on the island (The New York Carib News, 15 June 2020).
In Honduras, clashes between gang members and law enforcement increased throughout the country amidst an increase in the homicide rate following the progressive lifting of coronavirus lockdown measures (The Tico Times, 24 August 2020). Since the start of the health pandemic in March, violence targeting civilians has decreased significantly in all three countries of the Northern Triangle as the closure of businesses hampered gang extortion activities (ACLED, 29 May 2020). Law enforcement operations led to the arrest of one of the leaders of Los Montes Bobadilla Gang on 9 August and of a top member of Los Tercerenos gang in San Pedro Sula on 26 August.
In Mexico, the level of violence reported in the state of Guanajuato following the arrest of the leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel on 2 August remained high despite a sharp decline compared to July, which was especially deadly. The turf war between opposing criminal groups — including the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) over control of the state — continues to claim lives. Nearly 50 fatalities were recorded in August stemming from violence involving gangs; while high, this is nearly half all fatalities recorded in July. In July, 26 people were killed in a rehabilitation center in a deadly attack perpetrated by the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel. Despite this decline in fatalities, Guanajuato records the highest rates of violent death in Mexico (El Universal, 16 August 2020)
Finally, in Haiti, the ongoing war in the deprived neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince between local gangs and members of the G-9 alliance and Delmas 6 gang led by Jimmy Cherizier continue to disrupt the lives of the civilian population. On 31 August, six members of the Platon Bel Air and the Base Nan Lakwa gangs were killed by members of the G-9 alliance and the Base Krache Dife gang in the Bel Air district. A civilian was injured by a stray bullet in the clash in retaliation for an attack perpetrated earlier that day. Several houses were set on fire.
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