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ACLED Regional Overview - Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean (14 - 20 May 2022)

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Last week in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, gang violence increased, driven by attacks against civilians and clashes between state forces and gangs in Honduras, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Haiti. In Honduras, police arrested one of the leaders of the Montes Bobadilla gang, whose extradition had been requested by the US government. In Mexico, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) clashed with military and police forces in Jalisco state. In Puerto Rico, police launched anti-gang operations in response to clashes between rival gangs. In Haiti, violence against civilians remained high amid kidnappings and attacks perpetrated by gangs. In the Dominican Republic, Haitian migrants clashed with police officers during operations that resulted in the arrest of hundreds of migrants. Meanwhile, members of the LGBT+ community marched in Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras on 17 May to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.

In Honduras, police forces clashed with members of the Montes Bobadilla gang in a rural area of Colón department on 15 May. Police arrested three gang members and the gang’s main leader, Herlinda Bobadilla, during the clash, which left one of Bobadilla’s sons dead. The Montes Bobadilla gang controls drug transport routes along the Honduran Caribbean coast to the border with Guatemala (BBC, 16 May 2022). Last week’s clash came after the US government lodged an extradition request for Bobadilla and her two sons and announced a reward of up to 15 million USD in exchange for information about their location (El País, 16 May 2022). This violence contributed to the 29% increase in violence in Honduras last month 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 Mexico, the CJNG carried out several attacks against state forces along the border of Jalisco with Zacatecas and Aguascalientes states. Between 14 and 16 May, CJNG members clashed with national guard and military officers in Yahualica de González Gallo, Jalostotitlán, and Teocaltiche municipalities, leaving three officers and one gang member dead and several injured. Along the northern border of Jalisco, there is an ongoing conflict between the CJNG and Sinaloa Cartel, as the CJNG seeks to consolidate its control over Jalisco and their recent expansion to Zacatecas and Aguascalientes states (Infobae, 17 May 2022). These trends contribute to the 143% increase in violence in Jalisco over the past week relative to the past month, as flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Surge Tracker.

In Puerto Rico, gang violence intensified last week as rival gangs clashed and attacked civilians in the Morales and Villa Real neighborhoods in Caguas municipality on 15 May. A woman was killed and several other civilians injured during a clash between an unidentified gang and members of a local gang led by ‘El Burro.’ Following the incident, police clashed with El Burro gang members during security operations carried out across the island, resulting in the arrest of 18 gang members (El Vocero, 20 May 2022). According to police, rival gangs in Caguas are vying for the control of drug sales, mainly controlled by El Burro gang (El Nuevo Día, 19 May 2022). These events contribute to the 340% increase in violence in Puerto Rico over the past week relative to the past month that is flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map.

In Haiti, gang violence against civilians remained high last week. Gang members kidnapped the director of a hospital in Port-au-Prince, triggering demonstrations by residents who barricaded roads demanding the director’s release. Additionally, members of the Vitelhomme gang looted and burned down houses in Petionville district, forcing residents to leave the area. Residents claimed that the attack was carried out in retaliation for previous police operations against the gang (Haiti Standard, 16 May 2022). These incidents contribute to the 129% increase in violence in Ouest last month relative to the past year flagged by ACLED’s Subnational Threat Tracker, which first warned of increased violence to come in Ouest in the past month.

Meanwhile, mass kidnappings continued last week in Port-de-Paix, Nord-Ouest department, where gang members kidnapped dozens of bus passengers on 16 May. While violence in Nord-Ouest has not been common, it has become increasingly volatile, resulting in a shift from a place of ‘low risk’ to being considered an area of ‘growing risk’ by ACLED’s Volatility and Risk Predictability Index.

In the Dominican Republic, clashes between Haitian migrants and police officers were recorded in Santo Domingo on 18 and 19 May amid police interventions to arrest allegedly undocumented migrants. During the clashes, migrants attacked officers with Molotov cocktails while police officers used tear gas and fired shots into the air. Following the clashes, police arrested more than 300 migrants (El Nacional, 19 May 2022). Activists have reported that Dominican authorities deported more than 31,000 Haitians in 2021, claiming that authorities had separated children from their families in some cases (La Razón, 6 December 2022). While violence in Santo Domingo has not been common, it has become increasingly volatile, resulting in a shift from a place of ‘low risk’ to being considered an area of ‘growing risk’ by ACLED’s Volatility and Risk Predictability Index.

Finally, members of the LGBT+ community organized demonstrations to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia on 17 May in Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras. Protesters demanded the approval of laws that recognize equal rights for the LGBT+ community and demanded justice for the victims of discrimination and hate crimes. In Toluca, Mexico, police officers intervened to disperse a protest, beating activists and journalists covering the event. Meanwhile, in Culiacán, Sinaloa state, two armed men killed a member of the LGBT+ community in a drive-by shooting on 19 May. Though the perpetrators remain unknown, activists claimed that the attack could be considered a hate crime (El Universal, 20 May 2022). Thus far in 2022, ACLED records an increase in attacks against members of the LGBT+ community in Mexico compared to the same period of 2021.