A new report states that organized crime remains a major source of internal displacement in Mexico, but experts and victims say the government continues to ignore the problem.
A recent field report by National Public Radio (NPR) found that criminal groups and the threat of violence has displaced large numbers of people across Mexico.
One woman, identified only as Esperanza, told NPR that she and 80 other families fled the Pacific state of Sinaloa once criminal gangs moved into the area in order to take control of drug cultivation, threatening to kill anyone who resisted them. Esperanza said she received no government assistance after fleeing the gangs.
According to one expert, it is common for displaced victims such as Esperanza to receive little to no government support. Sarnata Reynolds, a senior advisor for Refugees International (RI), told NPR the Mexican government refuses to even acknowledge the country’s internally displaced population.
“If the government of Mexico was to recognize this and actually treat the victims of forced displacement, it would be overwhelming,” she said. “It would be hard for the government to do it right. But right now the government isn’t doing it at all.”
InSight Crime Analysis
The report highlights two central dynamics of internal displacement in Mexico: the role of organized crime as a key driver of forced displacement, and the government’s unwillingess to adequately address the problem.
Although estimates of the size of Mexico’s internally displaced population vary, one Mexican think tank has said 1.65 million people were driven from their homes between 2006 and 2011, equivalent to two percent of the country’s population. A 2012 United Nations report found that much of the displacement in Mexico was due to drug-related violence.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Displacement
Reynolds told InSight Crime last year that the Mexican government has been slow to react because internal displacement runs counter to the official narrative that the country’s security situation is improving. Similarly, Steve Hege, Director of the Americas program at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre of the Norwegian Refugee Council, has suggested that the administration of former President Felipe Calderon was unwilling to recognize IDPs, because they were “symbolic of the shortcomings” of the government’s militarized strategy against drug cartels.
For its part, the Mexican government says tracking internal displacement is a difficult task. In an email, the Mexican Embassy to the United States told NPR that “it is challenging and complex to isolate internal displacement from other types of migration in Mexico,” since many agricultural laborers periodically migrate to nearby states for work.