Last week in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, civilians bore the burden of ongoing gang violence in Mexico, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. In Mexico, gang attacks across Guanajuato state left at least 28 civilians dead in less than 24 hours, while members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) clashed with the Sinaloa Cartel in Zacatecas. In Haiti, G-9 members killed two journalists in Cité Soleil in Port-au-Prince. Meanwhile, nationwide unrest demanding Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s resignation continued, fueled by the recent announcement of a fuel price hike. In El Salvador, the renewal of a state of emergency and the announcement of President Nayib Bukele’s intention to run for re-election sparked demonstrations coinciding with Central America Independence commemorations on 15 September. On the same day, in Guatemala, members of the Poqomam Indigenous communities protested against persisting discrimination against Indigenous peoples.
In Mexico, the CJNG clashed with members of the Sinaloa Cartel in Zacatecas state on 11 September, leaving at least seven gang members dead in the Jerez municipality. The two cartels dispute the control of fentanyl production laboratories and key drug trafficking corridors crossing Zacatecas (Insight Crime, 10 January 2022). Violence in the state has been heightened since 2020 when a CJNG-led incursion attempted to challenge the Sinaloa Cartel’s dominance in the area (Infobae, 6 January 2022). The turf war between the cartels has also led to high levels of violence against civilians. Last week, ACLED records at least 18 fatalities, including the discovery of eight bodies bearing gunshot wounds and signs of torture on the Zacatecas-Jerez Highway.
Elsewhere, in Guanajuato, gang attacks left at least 28 people dead in less than 24 hours across several municipalities last week. Violence in the state has been attributed to the turf war between the CJNG and the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel over control of drug and oil trafficking revenues (Infobae, 14 January 2021). Local authorities claim that last week’s surge of deadly violence is likely connected to the arrests of five gang members in law enforcement operations (Infobae, 15 September 2022).
In Haiti, members of the G-9 gang coalition attacked a group of journalists reporting on violence in the district of Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince. They shot and killed two journalists before burning their bodies. Thus far in 2022, ACLED records the killing of at least four journalists.
Meanwhile, nationwide demonstrations continued last week, amid ongoing demands for Prime Minister Henry’s resignation and measures to address insecurity. The prime minister’s announcement of an increase in the price of fuel on 11 September further ignited rioting activity, with demonstrators setting barricades across the country and looting private and public buildings. State forces and private security responded to the unrest with force, killing at least three people in Port-au-Prince. Such events contributed to the 67% increase in violence in Haiti over the past week relative to the past year flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map, which first warned of increased violence to come in the country in the past month. In response to the unrest, police suspended all firearms licenses until further notice (CNW, 16 September 2022).
In Jamaica, violence targeting civilians remained at heightened levels last week. Armed men perpetrated attacks in six of the country’s 14 parishes, leading to the death of at least 12 people. This violence contributed to the 61% 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 warned of increased violence in the country during the preceding four weeks. According to authorities, small arms have been flowing into Jamaica from neighboring Caribbean and Central American countries in guns-for-drugs trading schemes (Jamaica Gleaner, 13 February 2022).
Similarly, in Trinidad and Tobago, gang-related violence against civilians remained high last week, contributing to the 63% increase in weekly violent events in Trinidad and Tobago 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. Experts attribute the increased gang violence in Trinidad and Tobago to the splintering of criminal groups, the diversification of gang activity, and increased access to weapons (Insight Crime, 31 May 2022).
In El Salvador, thousands of people demonstrated against President Bukele’s government in the capital city San Salvador on 15 September, coinciding with the commemoration of Central America’s Independence Day (Infobae, 15 September 2022). Demonstrations flared after Bukele announced his intention to run for the presidency in 2024, despite the Salvadoran constitution prohibiting consecutive presidential terms (BBC, 16 September 2022). Relatives of people arrested during the ongoing state of emergency in El Salvador also participated in demonstrations against the extension of the security measure. The government initially instated the state of emergency on 27 March to curb criminal violence but has been criticized for granting excessive power to law enforcement and limiting civil liberties (OHCHR, 5 April 2022; Human Rights Watch, 29 March 2022).
In Guatemala, students, members of civil organizations, and Indigenous communities also staged an anti-government demonstration on Central America Independence Day in Guatemala City. During the demonstration, members of the Poqomam Indigenous communities denounced poor living conditions and persisting discrimination against Indigenous peoples. Students also participated in the march and demonstrated against the election of a new rector at San Carlos University. They claim that there were irregularities in the election and that the new rector holds close ties with President Alejandro Giammattei (Swiss Info, 15 September 2022).
Note: This dashboard automatically updates to cover the latest four weeks of data released by ACLED. Use the date filters to view data for the one-week period covered by this Regional Overview.