Last week in South America, in Brazil, violence broke out in downtown São Paulo during a police operation in the open-air drug market known as Cracolândia. In Chile, the death of a journalist who was shot while reporting on the 1 May rallies sparked violent demonstrations. Furthermore, a new Mapuche militia in the Biobio region set fire to civilian houses in the Contulmo commune. In Colombia, although the Gulf Clan implemented an ‘armed strike’ in the northwestern departments, the group overtook control of 11 of Colombia’s 32 departments and continued to cause unrest in its influential areas.
In Brazil, the historic center of São Paulo city, the country’s largest open-air drug market, popularly known as Cracolândia, was a backdrop to riots and arrests last week. The riots broke out during a police operation to dismantle Cracolândia and arrest dealers and users, in an effort to curb drug trafficking and rid the area of drug users (El País, 13 May 2022). On 13 May, three civil police officers shot and killed a person in the area. Cracolândia has existed for over 30 years as a quasi-community for the homeless and drug users and is controlled by the First Capital Command (PCC), Brazil’s largest organized criminal group (Folha de S. Paulo, 10 May 2022). ACLED’s Subnational Threat Tracker first warned of increased violence to come in São Paulo in the past month.
Meanwhile, in Chile, residents took to the streets last week in Santiago to protest the killing of journalist Francisca Sandoval, who was shot in the head while reporting on the International Workers’ Day demonstrations on 1 May. On 12 May, she died from the severe injuries she sustained from the attack. During the 1 May demonstrations, a group of armed individuals confronted demonstrators with gunshots, injuring several demonstrators and at least three reporters, including Sandoval. She is the first journalist killed in the line of duty in Chile since the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (Biobio Chile, 12 May 2022). A day after her death, on 13 May, a group of demonstrators set up barricades, blocked traffic, and clashed with police forces in Santiago. These trends contribute to the 113% increase in violence in Metropolitana region over the past month relative to the past year flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Threat Tracker. The Subnational Tracker first warned of increased violence to come in Metropolitana in the past month.
Elsewhere in Chile, on 7 May, a Mapuche Indigenous group set three houses on fire in the Contulmo commune in the Biobío region, including a house belonging to a member of the mayor’s family. None of the houses were occupied during the attacks. The Mapuche Radical Organic (ORM) – a recently established Mapuche militia group – claimed responsibility for the attack (Biobio Chile, 7 May 2022). These trends contribute to the 101% increase in violence in Biobío over the past month relative to the past year flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Threat Tracker. The Subnational Tracker first warned of increased violence to come in the region in the past month. Indigenous Mapuche rights activists and militant groups claim that agriculture and forestry industries are occupying their lands. Therefore, they seek to hold the state accountable for not ensuring their right to their ancestral territory (La Tercera, 4 November 2021). (For more, see this ACLED analysis piece Understanding Indigenous Conflict in Chile.)
Lastly, in Colombia, the Gulf Clan’s ‘armed strike’ continued last week across the country’s northwestern region in response to the extradition of its detained leader, Dairo Antonio Úsuga (alias: Otoniel), to the United States. Over four days – from 6 to 9 May – the Gulf Can took control of 11 of Colombia’s 32 departments, in which the group enforced lockdowns, closed commercial establishments, closed off roads, and threatened residents (El Espectador, 9 May 2022). In Antioquia, Valle del Cauca, and Chocó, citizens ran out of basic supplies, such as food and gas (El Espectador, 9 May 2022). Meanwhile, in the Córdoba department, local hospitals faced a staff shortage, and civilians could not return to their homes due to blocked roads (El Espectador, 9 May 2022). Furthermore, in Canasgordas, Antioquia department, the Gulf Clan detonated an explosive device and opened fire against state security forces, killing a soldier and a police officer. These trends contribute to the 135% increase in violence in Antioquia over 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 department in the past month. Violence in Antioquia is both common and highly volatile; it is considered an area of ‘extreme risk’ by ACLED’s Volatility and Risk Predictability Index. Moreover, in Montecristo, Bolívar department, Gulf Clan members ambushed a military patrol, injuring six soldiers and killing another police officer. These trends contributed to the 160% increase in violence in Bolívar 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 department in the past month.
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