Last week in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, gang rivalries prompted clashes and attacks against civilians in Mexico and Guatemala, while fresh unrest in Haiti contributed to precipitating the humanitarian situation. In Mexico, the Los Tequileros gang killed at least 20 people in an attack in Guerrero state. Elsewhere, attacks against politicians continued in Morelos and Oaxaca states. In Guatemala, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) killed six members of the Barrio 18 gang (B-18). In El Salvador, MS-13 attacks against civilians triggered police operations in La Libertad department. In Haiti, demonstrations calling for Primer Mister Ariel Henry’s resignation continued, as people looted and barricaded roads amid worsening humanitarian conditions.
In Mexico, a deadly attack by the Los Tequileros gang in San Miguel Totolapán city, Guerrero state, left at least 20 people dead, including the mayor and his father. On 5 October, Los Tequileros members shot at the local city hall premises while the mayor, accompanied by other government officials and police officers, was attending a meeting. Following the attack, members of the Los Tequileros gang released a video threatening their rival, La Familia Michoacana Cartel, and claiming the killing of another government official days before (Infobae, 10 October 2022). In response, a La Familia Michoacana leader claimed that he was the target of the attack (El Financiero, 7 October 2022). Although Los Tequileros decreased operations after 2018 following the alleged killing of its leader, in 2020, the gang announced an alliance with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) to contest control of drug trafficking routes in municipalities across the border with Michoacán state (BBC, 7 October 2022).
In Morelos state, attacks targeting government officials continued last week, following the killing of a female deputy for the Morelos Progress Party in Cuernavaca by two armed suspects in a drive-by shooting. Authorities’ preliminary investigations suggest that the killing is related to the designation of the victim as a deputy, which was disputed by another local politician from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (El País, 6 October 2022). The attack came amid heightened levels of violence in Morelos state driven by gang attacks and armed clashes, mainly recorded in Cuernavaca and the neighboring city of Yautepec. Authorities have identified at least 14 criminal groups operating in Morelos state, including La Familia Michoacana and several local groups allied with the CJNG (El Universal, 2 June 2022).
Local administrators were also the target of assassination attempts in Oaxaca state. Armed suspects shot and killed a former councilor and injured two more people in San Martin Itunyoso municipality, following a dispute that erupted during an Indigenous assembly. Separately, armed suspects shot and killed a woman worker at an oil refinery in Salina Cruz municipality, allegedly after she refused to pay extortion fees to fuel thieves known as ‘huachicoleros’ (Infobae, 6 October 2022). These trends contribute to a 140% increase in violent events in Oaxaca last week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker, which also warned of increased violence in Oaxaca during the preceding four weeks.
Last week in Guatemala, members of the MS-13 gang waged an attack in Tiquisate, Escuitla department, reportedly killing six men identified as B-18 gang members. According to authorities, the attack relates to territorial disputes between these two rival gangs for control of drug sales and vehicle theft (Prensa Libre, 4 October 2022). This attack contributed to a 50% increase in violent events in Guatemala over the past week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month, as flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map. Local experts have identified B-18 and MS-13 activity mainly in the metropolitan areas of Guatemala, Escuintla, and Quetzaltenango departments, where they control extortion and drug trafficking routes (Prensa Libre, 8 July 2022).
In El Salvador, extortion-related attacks by MS-13 in La Libertad department drove the 100% increase in violent events in this department over the past week relative to the weekly average for the preceding month, as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker. Following the attacks, President Nayib Bukele announced a security operation to arrest members of the local branch of MS-13, known as the Witmer Locos Salvatruchos gang, deploying more than 2,000 police and military officers in Comasagua municipality, La Libertad (Los Angeles Times, 3 October 2022). Amid the ongoing operations, police arrested 40 alleged gang members and reported that the operations would continue. Since 27 March, the government has imposed a state of emergency to fight gangs, arresting more than 53,000 suspected gang members (El País, 5 October 2022).
In Haiti, violent demonstrations continued to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s government. Police officers fired tear gas and live bullets at demonstrators in Artibonite department, reportedly killing two people and leaving another 15 injured. During a demonstration in Nippes department, rioters barricaded roads and attacked a police officer. In response, officers opened fire, injuring one person, and set vehicles on fire (Le Nouvelliste, 3 October 2022). Police forces clashed with armed men in Gonaives, Artibonite department, in an attempt to arrest the head of the former rebel group Artibonite Resistance Front who is leading anti-government demonstrations in the department. This violence contributed to the 45% increase in weekly violent events in Haiti 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.
The ongoing unrest is aggravating the humanitarian situation in the country. Last week, school authorities postponed the start of classes, claiming that security conditions are inadequate (Le Nouvelliste, 4 October 2022). In the capital Port-au-Prince, police clashed with members of the G-9 gang alliance amid security operations to re-open access to the Varreux oil terminal. The terminal has been blocked by the G-9 since 19 September, which is exacerbating the scarcity of gasoline and diesel in the country (Reuters, 27 September 2022). Meanwhile, rioters also looted stores and food warehouses of humanitarian organizations UNICEF and Caritas in the south and southeast of the country. The UN Office in Haiti called for a humanitarian corridor to allow for the flow of fuel into the country, with the fuel shortage resulting in hospitals forced to close and potable water distribution affected (UN, 6 October 2022). On 7 October, the government authorized Prime Minister Henry to ask the international community for the “deployment of a specialized armed force” to address the ramping gang activity and address the spiraling humanitarian crisis (AP, 8 October 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.