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Daily Memo: UK and Latin America, Russia and Vietnam

Haiti: Deadly confrontations between self-defense groups and gangs amid ongoing gang turf wars. In April, gangs increasingly came into direct confrontation with self-defense groups and unarmed civilians attempting to resist gang offensives. In Cabaret commune, Ouest department, the Titanyen gang, supported by members of the Base 5 Secondes and Canaan gangs, carried out several attacks in Source Matelas, with preliminary reports reporting the killing of at least 100 people. The gangs reportedly launched retaliatory attacks against civilians who have blocked roads since November 2022 to push back gang offensives.1 Elsewhere, in the center of Port-au-Prince, local residents lynched 13 detained gang members that were being transferred by police forces following a clash in the Debussy neighborhood. Further violence was reported in the Ouest and Nippes departments throughout the month, leaving more than a dozen gang members dead. Since January 2023, gangs have increasingly responded to vigilante activity with retaliatory attacks targeting civilians, contributing to Haiti’s deteriorating security.2

Meanwhile, members of the Brooklyn gang — affiliated with the G-Pep gang alliance — clashed with the G-9-affiliated Belekou and Boston gangs in Cité Soleil, reportedly leaving 70 people dead. The clashes started on 14 April and lasted for over six consecutive days as part of rivalries between the two gang alliances over the control of Cité Soleil. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated a call for the deployment of an international armed force to address surging gang violence.3

Honduras: Rival criminal groups clash inside prisons in three departments On 8 April, clashes between incarcerated members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 (B-18) broke out in four detention centers located in El Paraiso, Francisco Morazán, and Santa Bárbara departments, leading to at least one fatality. Authorities claim that the gangs communicated with criminal cells operating outside the prisons in an attempt to destabilize national security.4 The incidents prompted President Xiomara Castro to launch an intervention plan, which includes new surveillance systems, the dismissals of corrupted prison guards, relocation of inmates affiliated with organized crime, and measures to reduce prison overcrowding.5 Despite the launching of this plan, clashes inside prisons continued throughout the month, driving heightened levels of prison riots and clashes, which thus far in 2023, have surpassed levels recorded in the whole of 2022. Criminal groups have controlled Honduras’ main detention centers amid weaknesses in the country’s penitentiary system, overcrowding, and the slow processing of criminal cases by judicial institutions.6 Jailed gang members are reported to communicate with members outside jails and participate in illegal activities such as extortion.7

Colombia: The killing of social leaders continues amid Total Peace negotiations Despite the Total Peace efforts proposed by President Gustavo Petro’s administration, armed groups continue to fight for control of illicit economies, especially in remote rural areas. In their competition over territorial control, armed groups reportedly killed at least 18 social leaders in April.8 Violence targeting social leaders increased notably in the Antioquia department, where the Gulf Clan has a significant foothold and with whom the government suspended ceasefire negotiations on 19 March.9 Colombian social leaders champion the rights of local communities and their access to public resources and lands. Due to their public role, they often fall victim to armed groups seeking to stifle dissent in rural areas.10 The government continued in its efforts to negotiate with armed groups. On 16 April, the Central General Staff Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia dissident group joined negotiations for an eventual demobilization of its factions.11 Since President Petro took office, he has sought to mitigate armed conflict in the country through the Total Peace process, which includes dialogues on ceasefire agreements between armed groups and the government.12

Mexico: Environmental activists and members of Indigenous communities subject to persisting violence

Environmental activists continue to be the targets of violence in Mexico with the killing of two activists recorded in April. Thus far in 2023, ACLED records at least seven events of violence targeting this group, which represents a twofold increase compared to the same period last year. Armed suspects kidnapped and killed an environmental activist of the Nahua Indigenous community in Chinicuila, Michoacán state. In this state, Indigenous communities have denounced irregularities in the granting of mining concessions by the government, as well as the presence of criminal groups involved in illegal mining activities.13 Meanwhile, in Oaxaca state, two gunmen killed an Indigenous activist from the Zapotec community who had opposed the construction of infrastructure projects such as the Tehuantepec Isthmus railways.14 According to local organizations, more than half of the aggressions targeting environmental defenders reported in Mexico in 2022 affected members of Indigenous communities.15 Similar attacks have occurred across Latin America and the Caribbean region. In April, ACLED records the killing of two Colombian activists who have advocated for animal rights and opposed extractive activities in rural areas in Antioquia and Norte de Santander departments.16 Thus far in 2023, ACLED records over a dozen targeted attacks against environmental defenders across the region.

Guatemala: Unidentified suspects attack a mayoral candidate in Suchitepequez department ahead of the general elections On 22 April, unidentified suspects ran over a mayoral candidate for the *Nosotros *political party while he was hanging a poster to promote his candidacy in San Pedro Cutzan, Suchitepequez. The victim denounced the incident as a targeted attack against him and called for investigations to identify the perpetrators and motivations behind the attack.17 The attack takes place ahead of Guatemala general elections scheduled on 25 June, which encompasses the election of the president, congress representatives, and municipal authorities, among others. It also follows the signing of the National Agreement on 11 April by 27 of the 30 political parties participating in the elections, who pledged to promote a violence-free campaign.18 Thus far in 2023, ACLED records at least two armed incidents targeting candidates, representing a decrease compared to the previous 2019 general elections, with at least six events recorded between January and April. Despite lower levels of violence, this year’s electoral cycle has been marked by tensions amid widespread demonstrations in February and March, sparked by the electoral court’s decision not to allow the registering of the Movement for the Liberation of the Peoples’ candidate.

Source : Relief Web