Violence remained high in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean last week, driven by attacks on government officials in Mexico, Haiti, and Honduras. In Mexico, conflict between the Los Ardillos gang and local self-defense groups intensified with a new explosive-charged drone attack, while criminal groups blocked roads in Michoacán and Sonora states following security operations. In Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago, violence by armed groups and police against civilians increased last week. Meanwhile, in Panama, teachers led nationwide protests to oppose the high cost of living and fuel price increases.
In Mexico last week, members of the Los Ardillos gang attacked the headquarters of the Union of People and Organizations of Guerrero (UPOEG) self-defense group with fragmentation grenades launched from drones in Buena Vista, Chilpancingo municipality. This attack comes weeks after the Los Ardillos gang carried out similar explosive drone attacks against Indigenous communities and local self-defense groups. The UPOEG has denounced the increasing violence by Los Ardillos, which seeks to take control of Indigenous territories for criminal activities, including extortions, illegal mining, and the recruitment of Indigenous people (InSight Crime, 13 May 2022). Meanwhile, violence remained high last week in Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, and Chilpancingo cities as armed suspects carried out attacks against bus and taxi drivers. According to the state’s general attorney, these attacks are related to rivalries between local criminal groups that dispute control of extorting public transport drivers and local businesses (El Sur, 11 July 2022). Following the attacks, public transportation drivers suspended their activities in Zihuatanejo, while the federal government sent 300 National Guard officers to reinforce security in Chilpancingo (Publimetro, 6 July 2022). These trends contribute to the 107% increase in violence in Guerrero 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 Guerrero in the past month.
Elsewhere, security operations triggered roadblocks by criminal groups in Sonora state last week. The Sinaloa Cartel clashed with military and National Guard officers in Altar municipality, resulting in the death of an officer and an armed man. Five others were arrested, including one of the cartel’s leaders. Following the clashes, the Sinaloa Cartel burned vehicles and blocked roads in Caborca, Pitiquito, and Altar municipalities. Meanwhile, in Michoacán state, Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) members and the United Cartel blocked roads and set vehicles alight in Ururpán, Tancítaro, and Nuevo Parangaricutiro municipalities, rejecting the implementation of a security plan by the state government (La Silla Rota, 2 July 2022). The plan includes measures to disarm local self-defense groups that allegedly have links with organized criminal groups (Milenio, 16 June 2022; Infobae, 2 July 2022)
In Tlaxcala state, two armed assailants shot and killed the municipal president of San Marcos Xilotepec in a drive-by shooting in Tlaxcala de Xicohtencatl on 6 July. State authorities discount the involvement of organized crime in the killing as they have denied the presence of these groups in Tlaxcala (La Jornada de Oriente, 6 July 2022; El Periodico de Tlaxcala, 2 May 2022). Members of the local political opposition, however, have urged the state government to acknowledge the presence of criminal groups (385 Grados, 19 April 2022). Thus far in 2022, ACLED records an overall increase in violence in Tlaxcala (including attacks on civilians, abductions, armed clashes, and more) compared to the same period in 2021. Violence in Tlaxcala has traditionally been more limited, though it has been on the rise.
In Haiti, attacks against politicians and government officials continued last week. In Mirebalais department, unidentified armed men killed and decapitated a former candidate for Mirebalais City Hall. Elsewhere, in Port-au-Prince’s Delmas district, unidentified armed men shot at the residence of Senator Joseph Lambert, with two perpetrators injured by security guards in response. Lambert and other senators had denounced threats of attacks to take over the parliament by members of the Village de Dieu gang (Le Facteur Haiti, 4 July 2022), which participated in the seizure of a courthouse in June.
Meanwhile, abductions by gangs and armed groups remained at high levels last week in Ouest department, spilling across Haiti’s border into the Dominican Republic, where a Haitian unidentified armed group kidnapped four Dominican civilians. The victims were abducted in Dajabon department on the international highway between the two countries. Security experts have reported an increasing presence of Haitian criminal groups around the border as they seek control of extortions and routes for human and drug trafficking (Dominican Today, 23 June 2022).
In Honduras, unidentified armed men shot and killed the former Secretary of Cultural Affairs of the College of Middle Education Teachers of Honduras (COPEMH) at his residence in Aldea El Balsamo, Yoro state, on 3 July. The victim, a member of the ruling Liberty and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), was a renowned teachers’ leader close to former President Manuel Zelaya Rosales (El Heraldo, 4 July 2022). Members of COPEMH demand that authorities investigate the attack, claiming it could be related to the victim’s political work or certain investigations on corruption by the organization (Defensores en Linea, 6 July 2022). Elsewhere, deadly attacks related to gang rivalries in Valle and Santa Barbara departments left 11 suspects dead in separate attacks. These attacks contributed to an uptick in violence in the country; ACLED’s Conflict Change Map first warned of increased violence to come in Honduras in the past month.
In Puerto Rico, attacks by armed groups against civilians contributed to the 125% increase in violence on the island last week relative to the past month flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map, which warned of more violence to come in the past month. Last week’s attacks resulted in 10 deaths, most of them occurring in Toa Baja and San Juan municipalities. These attacks contributed to the 100% increase in violence in San Juan over the past week relative to the past month, as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker. Puerto Rico’s governor has recently requested the US Government enhance federal and state collaboration to fight drugs and arms trafficking to curb violence and insecurity on the island (El Nuevo Dia, 14 June 2022).
In Trinidad and Tobago, attacks by armed groups and police against civilians prompted an upsurge in violence last week. Four civilians were shot and killed by police officers in two separate attacks in Port of Spain and San Juan-Laventille counties. In both cases, police claim that the shootings were carried out during security operations, while the victims’ relatives denounce the attacks as abuses of force (Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 3 July 2022). Following the attacks, people gathered and called for justice in Port of Spain for two consecutive days, with rioters setting burning barricades and clashing with police. Meanwhile, attacks by armed groups left six dead, contributing to the 85% increase in violence in Trinidad and Tobago last week relative to the past month flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map, which first warned of increased violence to come in the country in the past month.
In Panama last week, teachers led nationwide protests against the high cost of living and fuel price increases. Teachers and other labor groups demonstrated for five consecutive days in at least nine of the country’s 10 provinces to demand cheaper fuel and food and higher school budgets (DW, 10 July 2022). Demonstrations turned violent on 7 July in Panama City as students clashed with police, resulting in a police officer being injured; in Los Santos province, 22 teachers were arrested after police intervened to dissolve a protest on 5 July. These demonstrations follow a wave of similar demonstrations led by transportation workers in May. Construction workers and labor unions have called for a 24-hour strike on 13 July to pressure the government to provide solutions to the country’s social crisis (SwissInfo, 10 July 2022).
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