Last week in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, demonstrations remained high. In Cuba, repression by state forces of a hunger strike organized by the San Isidro Movement following the arrest of an activist triggered demonstrations of unprecedented scale in recent history. In Guatemala, demonstrations against the 2021 national budget continued amid allegations of state corruption. In Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, and Panama, women demonstrated against gender-based violence on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. In Mexico, demonstrations against gender-based violence represented a third of all demonstration events last week. Demonstrators clashed with police in Ciudad de México during one such demonstration. In Haiti, insecurity and the increasing number of kidnappings perpetrated by gangs continue to spark unrest.
In Cuba, a crackdown on a hunger strike organized by members of the San Isidro Movement triggered a number of demonstrations. On 26 November, law enforcement arrested and proceeded to beat hunger strikers of the San Isidro Movement – a collective of artists promoting freedom of expression. They were protesting against the arrest and sentencing of their colleague, David Solis, a week earlier. In a protest of unprecedented scale in recent history, nearly 300 artists gathered the day after the crackdown on hunger strikers outside the Ministry of Culture in support of freedom of expression and against state repression (Reuters, 28 November 2020). Government representatives agreed to meet with the demonstrators to discuss Decree 349, which restricts artistic freedom through the registration of artists to a state body. However, the representatives refused to make any concessions on the release of members of the San Isidro Movement (DW, 28 November 2020). In 2018, the Cuban government issued a series of decree aiming to restrain and censor artistic activities, which are viewed by the government as a channel for dissent and subversive to the values of the Cuban revolution (The Washington Post, 28 November 2020).
In Guatemala, anti-government demonstrations, initially sparked by the approval of the controversial 2021 National Budget, continued last week. The 2021 budget, described as centered around private interests, was overwhelmingly rejected by demonstrators who denounced cuts in the education and health sectors. Despite the suspension of the budget by Congress on 23 November, demonstrators continued to demand the resignation of President Giammattei and his cabinet amidst accusations of corruption (Aljazeera, 28 November 2020). On 28 November, demonstrators in Guatemala City burned a public transport unit and clashed with law enforcement. At least five journalists covering the unrest, as well as a human rights defender and five police officers, were injured, allegedly by hooded demonstrators. In order to quell the unrest, the government invited civil society actors and the business community to discuss proposals for the budget of the upcoming year. The invitation of private interest groups and supporters of the government to the roundtables was criticized by participating civil society organizations and further fueled tensions. Civil society actors further denounced the exclusion of key actors of Guatemalan society, such as indigenous communities, who represent more than 40% of the country’s population (Infobae, 27 November 2020).
In Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, and Panama, women demonstrated against gender-based violence on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Femicide rates in Latin America are among the highest in the world, with an average of 81 femicides monthly in Mexico for 2019 (Femicide Watch, 24 November 2020). During the coronavirus pandemic, violence against women has been on the rise amid lockdown measures, with increased levels of violence, especially domestic violence, reported in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica (UNDP, 3 November 2020). In Mexico, where gender-based violence has been an acute issue, nearly one-third of demonstrations last week focused on women’s rights. Marches were reported in at least 15 of the 32 Mexican states. In Ciudad de México, nearly one thousand women demonstrated and clashed with law enforcement, resulting in the injury of at least 25 officers and 20 participants (Animal Politico, 26 November 2020).
Lastly, in Haiti, increasing gang-related activities and kidnappings continue to spark unrest. In Port-au-Prince, demonstrators set burning barricades and clashed with police following the kidnapping of a doctor of the State of Haiti University’s Hospital. Law enforcement dispersed the demonstration with tear gas and firearms, resulting in the injury of a demonstrator. In the past two months, ACLED has recorded an increase in abductions. The majority of the kidnappings reported last week were perpetrated by criminal groups in exchange for a ransom (Le Nouvelliste, 28 November 2020). In the midst of a political crisis, with anti-government demonstrations recorded throughout 2020, law enforcement efforts have focused on containing social unrest. This has created fertile ground for gang activity, amid increasing rivalries between gangs seeking political power ahead of the 2021 elections. In addition, deteriorating socio-economic conditions due to the coronavirus pandemic have further pushed gangs to increasingly rely on kidnapping as a source of revenue (SRM, 6 May 2020).
© 2020 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). All rights reserved.