Latin America and the Caribbean experience many forms of political disorder: from insurgent groups vying for territorial control in Colombia and cartel violence fueling the rise of vigilantes in Mexico, to the suppression of dissent in Nicaragua and Venezuela. Yet even as each country’s disorder is shaped by factors unique to its local political landscape, the region also faces common threats. Gang activity stemming from drug trafficking is widespread, fueling instability across El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Brazil, and more. In these countries, gang violence has risen to a point where it directly threatens public safety and security, and where gangs challenge the state for control of territory.
Inequality and poverty have opened spaces for gangs to seize and consolidate power, in neighborhoods across the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince as well as throughout the favelas of Brazil. In cities like Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, the security for local residents is further eroded by hybrid agents like ‘police militias’ who engage in violence that is often indistinguishable from the activity of local gangs.
Around the region, civilians often face the brunt of disorder. They are targeted by gangs and cartels seeking to secure access to power and resources in Mexico and Honduras. Dissent and opposition are met with state violence in Nicaragua and Venezuela. And those protesting are often targeted with excessive and lethal force, as in Chile. Certain subsets of the population face even greater risk, such as indigenous communities in Chile and Brazil, and women in Colombia and Mexico.
Meanwhile, local populations increasingly take to the streets to voice their concerns through demonstrations and social movements, despite being met with repression and force. In Chile, a massive protest movement emerged after students rose up against rampant inequality; in Venezuela, supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaidó challenged the authority of President Nicolás Maduro; and Haiti remains under ‘lockdown’ after a spike in antigovernment demonstrations.
ACLED’s expansion of coverage to Latin America and the Caribbean allows for data-driven analysis of these trends in the region for the first time. In this report, ACLED has chosen 10 countries where disorder is widespread and evolving. It includes countries where cartel and gang violence is rampant — such as Mexico — as well as countries home to massive protest movements — such as Chile.
ACLED data for Latin America and the Caribbean are currently available from 2019 through to the present, with weekly updates allowing for real-time crisis monitoring across the region. All data can be accessed through the ACLED website.