Over the past month in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, attacks targeting journalists, social leaders, and politicians continued in Mexico and Guatemala, while anti-government demonstrations were recorded in Haiti and Cuba. In Mexico, armed suspects killed two journalists, while a woman activist for the disappeared was killed by gunmen on the International Day of the Disappeared on 30 August. In Guatemala, armed men attacked local politicians in two separate attacks, while gang violence intensified in Guatemala department. In both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, attacks on civilians drove increases in violence. In Haiti, people called for Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s resignation in nationwide demonstrations, while gang violence remained high. In Cuba, power outages continued to trigger anti-government demonstrations in the last two weeks of August.
In Mexico, attacks targeting journalists intensified over the past month. In Sonora state, a journalist was killed by unidentified suspects, with his body found abandoned on 17 August in San Luis Colorado. Some investigating authorities have claimed that the killing could be related to the journalist’s reporting on criminality in Sonora, while others have suggested that it may be related to his alleged involvement in drug trafficking and other criminal activities (Infobae, 18 August 2022). Elsewhere, in Guerrero state, armed suspects shot and killed a journalist in Chilpancingo on 22 August. The victim had recently criticized the government for the lack of an investigation against former President Enrique Peña Nieto in response to the Truth Commission report that classified the disappearance of 43 students of Ayotzinapa in 2014 as a state crime (El Universal, 22 August 2022). Further, in the first week of September, a woman journalist was kidnapped in Quintana Roo state, and another was attacked in Colima state. Both victims survived the attacks, though, in the latter attack, the journalist was injured. In the first eight months of 2022, the number of recorded attacks targeting journalists has already surpassed the number of such attacks recorded for the entirety of 2021; levels peaked in August 2022 compared to previous months this year.
Meanwhile, in Sinaloa state, a woman activist attending a mass for her missing son was kidnapped by armed men outside a church in Elota municipality and killed hours later. The woman was part of an organization that searches for victims of forced disappearances and had received threats for her advocacy and efforts to locate her son and other missing people (El País, 1 September 2022). The killing of the activist coincided with commemorations for the International Day of the Disappeared on 30 August, with demonstrations demanding justice and the locations of the disappeared recorded in at least 16 of Mexico’s 32 states. The UN has recorded around 100,000 victims of forced disappearance in Mexico since its records began in 1967, with more than 90% of cases occurring since 2006 and relating to organized criminal group activity and the war against drugs (UN, 17 May 2022).
In Guatemala, attacks against civilians increased over the past month relative to the month prior. Armed men killed an independent politician and seriously injured a former mayor in separate attacks in Chiquimula and Retalhuleu departments, respectively. Though the motivations behind both attacks remain unknown, the victims were well-known politicians in their departments and had expressed their intentions of running for mayoral positions in the upcoming elections scheduled for June 2023 (Prensa Libre, 2 September 2022; Soy 502, 31 August 2022).
Meanwhile, in Guatemala department, gang violence increased, driven by attacks that left at least a dozen people dead, including six taxi and bus drivers. According to authorities, most of the attacks on public transportation drivers were related to extortion attempts, whereas a mass killing in Guatemala City that left six people dead is thought to be related to disputes between rival gangs (Prensa Libre, 27 August 2022; República, 10 September 2022). These trends contribute to the 150% increase in violent events in Guatemala department over the past week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month, as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker.
In Jamaica, violence against civilians increased in the past month, with attacks by armed men and gangs recorded in six of the country’s 14 parishes. This violence contributed to the 49% increase in weekly violent events in Jamaica in the past month relative to the weekly average for the preceding year. ACLED’s Conflict Change Map also warned of increased violence in the country during the preceding four weeks. Most attacks took place in Kingston and Westmoreland parishes. Several areas of Westmoreland and Kingston parishes are considered Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs), giving state forces more power to fight criminality in these areas (Jamaica Information Service, 16 January 2022). In Kingston, authorities have imposed curfews in several areas in response to the sharp rise in violence, while Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the government would review the possibility of expanding the ZOSOs in Kingston (Crisis24, 7 September 2022; Jamaica Gleaner, 10 August 2022).
In Trinidad and Tobago, armed men continued to carry out attacks targeting civilians in the past month, with most attacks occurring in Port of Spain municipality and the neighboring regions of Tunapuna Piarco and San Juan-Laventille. According to authorities, conflicts between the Rasta City gang and six other gangs that operate in Port of Spain, as well as the proliferation of firearms, are the main reasons behind the rising violence in the area (Newsday, 26 August 2022). The violence contributed to the 111% increase in weekly violent events in Trinidad and Tobago in the past month relative to the weekly average for the preceding year, as flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map, which also warned of increased violence in the country during the preceding four weeks.
In Haiti, fuel scarcity and high food prices sparked anti-government demonstrations across the country throughout the past three weeks. People demonstrated against the high cost of living, a rise in the US dollar exchange rate, and gang violence, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Henry (Miami Herald, 8 September 2022). Outbreaks of destructive activity were reported in several locations, with rioters barricading roads, burning tires, and throwing stones at stores, while police deployed tear gas to disperse crowds in several locations. There were also reports of armed clashes between armed rioters and police, as well as police use of firearms to disperse demonstrators. At least four demonstrators were killed during the violence, and dozens were injured. Security forces denied responsibility for at least two of the killings (Le Nouvelliste, 24 August 2022). Members of the opposition party Platform Pitit Desalin (PPD) participated in demonstrations, calling on supporters to protest against the current bank system and accusing elites of causing the current economic crisis (Rezo Nodwes, 9 September 2022). In the first days of September, rioting contributed to the 100% increase in violent events in Haiti over the past week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month, as flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map. Amid the outbreak of violence, Henry promised to adopt a series of measures last week to enable better access to fuel and provide social programs to combat extreme poverty (Le National, 8 September 2022).
Meanwhile, deadly gang attacks continued during the past month, despite a slight decrease in overall levels of violence against civilians. These attacks occurred mainly in Ouest department, including an attack by the 400 Mawozo gang that left eight people dead in Cité Doudoune, Croix-des-Bouquets district. Additionally, battles between police and gangs continued amid security operations against armed groups. Clashes during police operations in Ouest, Nord, Artibonite, Sud, and Centre departments left at least 14 gang members dead.
In Cuba, nationwide demonstrations in response to power outages continued during the last two weeks of August, with demonstrators demanding solutions to the energy crisis and expressing anti-government sentiment. Although most demonstrations were peaceful, rioters threw bottles and stones at the offices of a thermoelectric plant in Nuevitas, Camaguey province. Police deployed tear gas and arrested demonstrators in Camaguey and Artemisa provinces, leaving an unknown number of demonstrators wounded, including two girls who were beaten by security forces. ACLED records similar demonstrations since mid-July. The ongoing energy crisis in Cuba was exacerbated by a lightning strike that caused a fire at an oil storage facility in the city of Matanzas on 9 August, destroying almost half of the island’s primary fuel storage (CNN, 10 August 2022).
Note: This dashboard automatically updates to cover the latest four weeks of data released by ACLED.