Last week in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean region, the number of violence against civilians remained high. In Mexico, Guatemala, and Cuba, journalists continue to be the victims of targeted attacks. In Mexico, a journalist was killed in the state of Guanajuato, sparking demonstrations across several states. In Guatemala, a journalist was shot and killed by an unknown assailant, allegedly after refusing to pay an extortion fee. In Cuba, several members of the San Isidro Movement were arrested as they were protesting against the arbitrary arrest and beating of an independent journalist. Meanwhile, in Mexico, the North-East Cartel (CDN) and the Gulf Cartel continued to clash over control of the Mexico-US border in the state of Tamaulipas. Several clashes between gangs and law enforcement were also recorded as part of ongoing efforts to deter gang activities. Elsewhere in Mexico, hundreds of women demonstrated against gender-based violence following the killing of an active member of the feminist movement. The injuring of two journalists by law enforcement during a demonstration, triggered additional demonstrations. In Panama, taxi drivers protested against the lifting of coronavirus restrictions on the operation of taxi services, which they fear will adversely affect them.
In Mexico, the killing of a journalist in Salamanca, Guanajuato sparked demonstrations across several states. While investigating the discovery of human remains likely connected to gang activities, a reporter was killed in a direct attack perpetrated by two armed men. Journalists have called for greater security measures to protect press workers who continue to be threatened and targeted for investigating government corruption or organized crime activities in the country. In 2019, Mexico had the highest number of journalist killings in the world (UNESCO, November 2020). ACLED has recorded the killing of at least 18 journalists in 2019, and the killing of at least 14 journalists in 2020 thus far.
Similarly, in Guatemala, the director of a TV channel was killed in Escuintla, allegedly after refusing to pay an extortion fee. Under the previous administration of President Jimmy Morales, the activities of journalists exposing corruption and crime had been continuously criminalized (Committee to Protect Journalists, 27 March 2020). Several civil society reports have highlighted that press workers criticizing the government continue to face legal harassment and direct attacks under the administration of President Alejandro Giammattei who was elected earlier this year (International Federation for Human Rights, 18 September 2020). In 2020 thus far, ACLED has recorded the killing of at least three journalists in Guatemala.
In Cuba, police forces arrested over a dozen members of the San Isidro Movement opposition group, a collective of artists promoting freedom of expression. The activists were protesting against the arbitrary arrest and beating of an independent journalist who has openly criticized the government. In 2020, Cuba ranks as one of the least free countries on the World Press Freedom Index (RSF, 2020). In recent months, the Cuban government’s use of repressive tactics against its critics has increased amid growing popular discontent over deteriorating economic conditions (for more on this, see this recent ACLED piece). In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many Cubans continue to face shortages and long queues for buying basic goods and food, and harsh fines for breaking coronavirus restrictions.
Meanwhile, in the north of Mexico, clashes over the control of the Mexico-US border between the North-East Cartel and the Gulf Cartel continue in the state of Tamaulipas. Several clashes were reported in the municipality of Camargo between Los Metros, an armed faction of the Gulf Cartel, and the CDN cartel. The two gangs seek to gain control of the drug-trafficking route (La Jornada, 30 August 2020). In addition, a military officer was killed in an ambush coordinated by at least 15 members of the CDN. This took place amid increased government efforts to combat organized crime in the state. Earlier in August, the state governor deployed special forces to deter the activities of gangs in Tamaulipas (Infobae, 14 August 2020).
Last week in Mexico, another wave of demonstrations against gender-based violence was reported across the country. Following the killing of an active member of the feminist movement in Cancun, hundreds of women and members of feminist collectives protested and demanded justice. In the first six months of 2020, over 2,500 women were killed in Mexico, against a backdrop of increasing domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic (Infobae, 10 October 2020). In 2019, over 51% of the cases qualified as femicide went unpunished (Impunidad Cero, November 2020). During a demonstration in Cancun, police used firearms to disperse the crowd of demonstrators, resulting in the injury of two reporters and the arrest of eight demonstrators. The use of police force triggered further demonstrations in Ciudad de Mexico, Chiapas, and Mexico states.
In Panama, taxi drivers blocked roads in at least four of the ten provinces of the country to protest against a new government measure that enables taxi drivers to work without restrictions. With the progressive resumption of economic activities, especially in the tourism sector, the government of Panama decided to lift coronavirus restrictions imposed on the transportation sector (La Prensa, 11 November 2020). However, smaller and traditional groups of taxi drivers claim that the decision might lead to the saturation of the taxi service market in the context of a partially recovered economy. In turn, they fear that the lifting of restrictions will benefit online taxi platforms and transportation companies with larger fleets of vehicles (El Siglo, 12 November 2020).
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