San Jose de los Hornos, Mexico following displacement

Researchers from the International Center for Migrant Human Rights (CIDEHUM) say that organized crime and violence have overtaken armed conflict as the main causes of displacement in Central America.

According to CIDEHUM, while there has always been high migration from Central America due to economic reasons, now many people are leaving to flee violence and forcible recruitment by criminal gangs.

The hardest hit area is in the region known as the "northern triangle" of Central America, which includes Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

In an interview with the EFE, the CIDEHUM Director Gabriela Rodriguez compared the displacement happening now to that which occurred in the 70s and 80s as a result of civil war in the region, although today's victims are less visible and thus more vulnerable.

Rodriguez also stated that some migrants who are deported back to their country of origin after reaching the United States or other Central American countries say that returning home is a "death sentence" for them.

InSight Crime Analysis

The CIDEHUM found that in 2011 there were 5.6 million Latin Americans living in displacement, mostly in Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru. Forced displacement due to armed conflict has a long history in Latin America, but today many are forced to flee because of criminal, rather than political violence. Central American states must contend not only with local gangs, such as MS-13 and Barrio 18 in El Salvador, but the incursion of Mexican criminal groups, such as the Zetas' aggressive expansion into Guatemala.

In addition to facing the threat of violence or forced displacement from organized crime, Central Americans are often caught in the crossfire between criminal groups and government anti-organized crime efforts. In August 2011, at least 200 people from the north Guatemalan province of Peten sought refuge across the Mexican border after Guatemalan security forces repotedly accused them of collaborating with drug traffickers and burnt down their homes.

[Read InSight Crime's special on displacement in Latin America]

 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...